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""06932761 1 




OF 1798. 









OF 1798. 



"There was ambition, there was sedition, there was violence mixing in the public 
cause, but no man will persuade me that it was not the cause of Liberty on the one 
side, and T^jrxanny on the other." CHATHAM. 








CODE. — THIS LAin)L0BD8 — THE WHITBBOYB ..•;... 1 

































THE WAB 158 















OF 1798. 



We intend, in the following pages, to lay before our readers a clear and 
succinct account of that tremendous national convulsion, known as the 
Gb£At Ibish Rebellion of 1 798 ; of the causes which remotely or prozi4 
mately prepared it, of the objects which its authors had in view, of the 
agencies by which it >vas conducted, and of the means by which it wa^ 

Many considerations might be adduced, as fitted to suggest and recom* 
mend such a work as this, of wfiich we now oflfer to the public the intro- 
ductory chapter ; but there is one, compared with which all the rest sink 
into triviality. It is ahistory full of stirring incident; diversified by strange 
fortunes, sudden and startling vicissitudes, pictmnesque situations, hair- 
breadth escapes, remarkable men, great virtues and great crimes, and the 
excitement of all the varied passions of which our nature is capable, col- 
lected into one focus, and absorbed in one central interest. Yet the san^ 
may be said of other histories ; and, if mere excitement were what we 
wished to give the reader, fiction might, perhaps, answer the purpose better 
I than any history. It is a history abounding in those lessons of political 
justice which constitute the moral of history, and the best part of its phi- 
losophy ; it shows us oppression reacting in crime, and crime in weakness 
and misery— the seed of tyrannous injustice growing up into a harvest of 
rebellion, and the sins of the fatters descending on the sons and the sons' 
sons. Yet other histories show this likewise, and the trite and familial? 
moral needs not to be laboriously demonstrated anew. It is a history, too;^ 
which has long been waiting to be written, and of whioh the materials, 
scattered over a wide surface of literature, have not jret, so far as we 
know, been condensed inta readable brevity and convenient cheapness for 
the mass of readers ; yet thejre are many other such desiderata etill un« 



supplied, and we do not know that any mere abstract notion of tlie fitness 
of filling up a vacuum in popular literature would have directed our choice 
to this particular topic. We write the History of the Irish Rebellion — as 
we desire that it should be read — ^not for curiosity, but for use; to meet 
a present, practical, and most pressing want of the day and the hour. We 
write it, because we beUeve that the great multitude of reading English- 
men do not know the history of Ireland— do not know a hundredth part of 
the crimes that have been perpetrated against Ireland in their name and 
by their authority ; and because we are sure it is high time they did 
know these things. Mr. O'Connell says, in his " Memoir on Ireland, 
Native and Saxon,"* " It has pleased the English people in general to forget 
all the facts in Irish history." Mr. O'Connell is mistaken. The English 
people in general are quite guiltless of forgetting that which they never 
knew. The English people in general are wofully ignorant of the facts of 
Irish history. The generality of educated Englishmen know more about 
the Punic and Peloponuesian wars than about the wars of Ireland, native 
and Saxon ; are more at home in the siege of Troy than in the siege of 
Limerick ; could give you a far better account of the expedition of Nicias 
to Syracuse than of the expedition of Hoche and Tone to Bantry Bay ; 
and are infinitely better read in the laws of Solon and Lycurgus than in 
tJie Penal Code against the Irish Catholics. It is high time all this were 
•djanged. // is not safe for England to remain ignorant of Ii-eland, and 
of the facts of Irish history. The English people in general must inform 
themselves of the facts of Irish history, and of the state of things which 
has grown out of those facts, and of their own interests and duties re- 
lative to that state of things — or it will be worse for the English people in 
general. We must make ourselves acquainted with the wrongs which 
we have done, or caused and suffered to be done, against Ireland, that we 
may set ourselves with all diligence to undo them while there is time — ^if, 
indeed, the time be not already past. In order to do, or get done, that 
JUSTICE TO IRELAND which is every hour becoming a more and more 
presang necessity for Great Britain, we must learn to understand Ireland ; 
we must learn to put ourselves in the place of Irishmen, to enter into their 
feelings, to make their point of vision ours, and incorporate the facts of 
their history with our own most familiar linowledge. This is our purpose 
in writing the History of the Irish RebelKon. We cannot desire any 
surer guarantee for the dispassionate consideration, and the safe, wise and 
honest adjustment of all outstanding questions between Great Britain and 
Ireland, than that the English x)eople in general should have a clear and 
comprehensive understanding of the rebelhon of 1798, in all its causes, 
effects, circumstances and relations. 

We are not going in these pages to write the politics of 1 843, under the 
name of the history of 1798. If the politics of the day have given us a 
subject, they wiU not (consciously to ourselves) influence our mode of 
treating it. We shall not attempt to make out a case either for or against 
the Repeal of the Union. Neither on this nor on any other question of 
contemporaneous politics have we here any " case" to make. What we 
desire is, to accustom Englishmen to study, understand, and sympathise 
with Ireland ; to get people to see — ^what it is so wonderfid any peo^ 

♦ Fte£Me, p. riS. 


should not see — ^that (next to the food-and-work question) the first qiie»« 
tioQ of the day — ^the question of questicHis — ^is the Irish question. C^ear 
it iSj that Iri^ pditics are destined to beoome, more and more with e\ery 
advancing month, the subject of discussion and legislation ; and we believe 
nothing can better ensure the sobriety of the discussion, and the benelic^ioe 
and wisdom of the legislation, than the putting the English people in 
geBeral in possession of some of those facts in past Lish history, out erf 
which the perplexities and trials of our present Irish politics have mainly 

To write intelligibly the Histor}^ of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, it will 
be necessary, first of all, to review at some length the condition of the 
Irish people, and the geaei-al course of Irish history, during the seventy or 
^g^ty years preceding that outbreak. Effects never come without causes, 
and are not to be understood without the knowledge of their causes. No 
people ever rebelled yet, without something to rebel for; and to detail the 
fluere marchings and counter-marcliings, the sieges and battles of a dvii 
war, without a previous understanding of the social and moral state of 
things out of which civil war ^ew, would be to begin at the end— to com« 
jnence with the conclusion. The Rebellion of 1798 did not begin with the. 
year 1 798 ; it had been getting ready generations before : it was no sudden 
whimsey of popular caprice or passion, but the last result of ages of op- 
pression and misrule ; it was the violent crisis of a chronic disease — ^it Was 
the fifth act of a tragedy. To WTite or to read truly the history of the 
Iridi Rebellicm of 1 798, we must go back to the previous state of Ireland,., 
the ccHidition of her people, the spirit of her laws, the constitution and. 
character of her government, legislative and administrative, during the 
earlier part of the century whose closing years have written theii* annals in 
blood and fire ; we must inform ourselves of the social and political con- 
dition of the Irish people during the eighteenth century, or we cannot un- 
derstand the civil convulsion with which the century closed. 

And yet — such is the monstrous anomalousness of everything in and 
about Insh history — ^we find, at tbe very outset, the need of a new voca- 
bulary to express truly tbe social facts and relations which we have to do 
with; even tlie seemingly so simple and common-place combination of 
words in which we have phrased the subject of this preliminary chapter 
requires correction and qualification. " Social and political condition of 
the Irish people during the eighteenth century !" — Why, during the greater 
part of the eighteenth century there was, in strictness, no such thing as an 
Irish people. There were in Ireland, during the eighteenth century, two- 
peoples — a tyrant-people and a slave-people — existing in physical and 
local juxta-position on the same superficies of soil, but without moral or 
social community ; severed by a wide gulf of religious hatred, political ex- 
clusion, social enmity, and legal proscription. " Iiish people," during the 
eighteenth century, there was not. Of that which, for w^ant of another 
name, we must still continue to call the people of Ireland, five-sixths stood, 
^th in law and in fact, to the remaining one-sixth, in tte relation at once of 
slaves and enemies — as slaves, despised ; as enemies, hated — a degraded, 
excluded, proscribed, alien, villein caste. The combination was of fearful 
consequence. Had they been only slaves, they might have counted on sudi 
^ndness as merciful and prudent owners exercise towards slaves ; had they 
been only enemies, the laws of war would have left tbfsm a chance of fak 


and honourable terms of peace ; but the complication of servitude with en- 
mity produced a result such as no other time or country than Ireland in the 
eighteenth century can match : they were the hated slaves and the scorned 
foes of an oligarchy, which occupied the seat, and wielded the powers of 
government, in the spirit of a garrison in an enemy's country. The law and 
constitution of Ireland in the eighteenth century formally ignored the ex- 
istence of these five-sixths of the Irish people. In the year 1 759 it was 
ruled in the Four Courts of Dublin, that " the law did not presume a 
Papist to exist in the kingdom, nor could they breathe without the con* 
nivance of government,^'* And this atrocious legal fiction both the 
makers and administrators of the law did their best to realise as a fact. 
Five-sixths of the Irish people, during the greater part of that century, 
were, under the name of Papists, aliens in their own country. They were 
excluded from eveiy privilege, every office, every emolument, every civil 
trust, every corporate right, every political franchise. They were excluded 
from the navy, from the anny, from the magistracy, from the law. They 
were excluded from parliament, from juries, from elections. They could 
not buy land, they could not bear arms, they could not educate their chil- 
dren, Uiey could not intermarry with Protestants, they could not so much 
as ride good horses. The law did not presume them to exist, nor could 
they " breathe without the connivance of government." 

The diabolical character of this law, which presumed the non-existence 
of five-sixths of the people subject to it, cannot be adequately understood 
from these generalities. To do justice to the hateful thing, we must track 
it, step by step, through the various stages of its growth, as it was gradually 
matured by the inventive malice — the refined, cold-blooded, lawyer-like 
atrocity — of many successive parliaments, premising that it had its origin 
in a deliberate breach of faith. The whole thing together was a violation, 
laboriously prolonged and aggravated through three-quarters of a century, 
both of the letter and the spirit of a public treaty. 

On the 3rd of October, 1691, the Irish army of James II., then in occu- 
pation of the city of Limerick, surrendered to the commander-in-chief of 
the English forces of Bang William, on the terms of a treaty duly signed, 
and afterwards enrolled in Chancery ; which treaty guaranteed to the Ca- 
tholics of the kingdom of Ireland the continuance of all their then existing 
civil, political and social rights (which included nearly every thing the law 
now gives them), with the express promise, in the first article, of " such 
further security as might presebve them from any disturbance 


Now, how was this treaty performed ? On the principle of keeping no 
faith with heretics. 

On the 27th of August, 1695, King William summoned a parliament at 
Dublin ; and in his royal speech, by the mouth of his Lord Deputy, he re- 
commended them to " lay hold on the opportunity then put into their hands, 
of making such a lasting settlement that it might never more be in the 
power of their enemies to put England to expense of blood and treasure."! * 

Plowden's History of Ireland, vol. ii., p. 126. 
See the whole Treaty in Parneira " ] 
lolics," pp. 5-12. 

J Commons' Journals^ roL iL, p. 644» 

t See the whole Treaty in Parneira " History of the Penal Laws against the Irish 
Catholics," pp. 5-12. 


The F^otestanft parKament evinced no lack of zeal in the work of " set- 
tling" themselves against their enemies. The fruits of their industry soon 
appeared on the statute-book, as follows :— 

By 7 W. III., c. 4., they deprived " Papists" of the power of educating 
their own children. 

By 7 W. III., c. 5, they deprived " Papists" of the right of bearing arms. 

By 9 W. III., c. 1., they banished all the "regulars of the Popish clergy." 

And then, with a whimsical and cruel irony, by 9 W. III., c. 2, they 
confirmed the treaty of Limerick^ omitting the first, fourth, seventh, 
eighth, ninth, and tenth articles, and falsifying and mutilating all the others. 
X«est, however, the Protestant interest should be endangered by too much 
{Conciliation, they went on, by 9 W. III., c. 3, to prevent Protestants from 
intennarrying with Papists ; and, by two further acts of the next year, they 
restrained Papists from practising as solicitors, and from being employed as 

The Protestant interest seems not to have prospered according to expec- 
tation under this moderate incipient persecution. It was found necessary to 
abandon the homcsopathic regimen of intolerance, and administer larger and 
more vigorous doses. On the 4th of Maich, 1704, the royal assent was 
given to the " Act to prevent the further giowth of Popery ;"* which act 
restrained the Popish father, if blessed with a Protestant son, from selling, 
mortgaging, or otherwise disposing of his estate-— deprived him of the custody 
of his own child, of whatever age (should the httle thing fancy or pretend 
itself a Protestant) — ^prohibited Papists from buying, or even renting lan^ 
for more than thirty-one years — and incapacitated the Popish son from inhe- 
liting imder a Protestant father. 

Still, the "further growth of Popery " was not " prevented ;" and the Pro- 
testant interest clamoured for more protection. In 1707, the Irish Com- 
mons met their Lord Lieutenant with thankful acknowledgments of the 
*' benefits they enjoyed in that happy opportunity of meeting under his 
llxcellency's government, to enact such laws as were yet wanting to 
strengthen the Protestant interest of the kingdom;" and they assured his 
excellency, that they were met "with firm resolutions to improve that 
opportunity to the utmost of their power."t The promise was better kept 
than legislative promises commonly are kept. By 8 Anne, c. 3, " for ex» 
plaining and amending an Act to prevent tiie further growth of Popery," 
they provided {yater alia) that any conforming Protestant child might file 
a bill in Chancery against his Popish father, to reduce the Popish father's 
estate in fee simple to a Ufe-tenancy (subject to a rent- charge for the Pro- 
testant child's " sufficient maintenance"), with remainder in fee to the young 
knave of a convert ; thus sowing distrust and dissension in every CathoUc 
family in Ireland, setting the father against the son, and the son against 
the father, and holding out a legislative premium to the basest hypocrisy 
and the blackest ingratitude. The same act offered the douceur of a 30/. 
pension to converted Popish priests ; and provided for the better discovery 
of recusant Popish clergymen and schoolmasters, by a curiously arranged 
sliding scale of duties, ranging from 10/. for the usher, up to 50/. for the 

These acts of Queen Anne, reinforced by some minor ones of the same 

* a Anne, c. 6. 

t Cpmmons' Journals, ToLiiLi pp. 3684). 


Tetgn, might really seem fo ^ve left Iktk or nothing to be daae in die waj 
of strengthening the Protestant interest. And, in truth, the main harvest (^ 
legislative persecution was by this time pretty weH gathered in. StiH, some 
Taml^le gleanings remained for the delectation of future labourers in the 
Protestant vineyard ; and the ingenious industry of Protestant legislators 
was stin able to find work for itself. Hie Parliament of George I. amused 
ite leisure with acts for " better regulating** the town of Gralway and the 
city of Kilkenny, and "strengthening the Protestant interest therein;" 
passed a militia bill with clauses for seizing Papists* horses, and taxing 
Pkpists double towards the costs of the militia ; excluded Papists from the 
constabulary and night watch (with liability to pay handsomely for Protest- 
ant substitutes), and shut them out from voting at vestries held for the re- 
building and repairing of Protestant churches. 

Their successors in the ensuing leign were equally zealous, and more 
successful. In the first year of George II., by a clause casually introduced, 
thrown in by the way as an amendment, into an act for regulating elections 
(I Greo. IL, c. 9), Papists were deprived of the elective franchise ; ^xe- 
isixths of the pe<^le of Ireland were swept out of the constitution, such as it 
-was, at one stroke, without notice and without debate. The appetite for 
persecution kept on growing by what it fed on. By other acts of this reign 
Papists were forbidden to practise as barristers ; Protestant losses from the 
privateers of Popish enemies vrere to be made good by Protestant grand 
jury levies on Popish goods and lands; all marriages to be thereafter cele- 
brated by any Popish priest, between Protestants and Papists, were annulled, 
and every Popish priest who should solemmze such marriage was to be 


For thi« last refinement in the art and science of persecution, Ireland was 
indebted to no ignorant fanatic, — to no brutal and savage bigot, — ^but to 
that pink and pattern of gentlemanly decorum, Lord Chesterfield. 

If to the preceding we add the Arms Bill of 1776 (15 and 16 Geo. III., 
• c. 21), subjecting every Papist, male or female, to &^e and imprisonment, 
jd^lory Ofnd nihipping, fw refusing to deliver up arms, or neglecting to 
appear, when sunmioned, before any justice of the peace, to give information 
Against any Papist whom he or she might know to keep arms; and the act of 
1782 (21 and 22 GreorgellL, c. 48), extending to Ireland all Popish penal- • 
ties and difiabilities then existing in Great Britain, — ^we believe we shall 
have given a pretty complete account of that unutterably base and cruel series 
of legislative enactment^ known as the Irish Catholic Penal Code— that 
hideous offspring of religious bigotry, party spite, and class insolence — that 
Intern of slow political torture and civil death — that " viciously perfect " 
system, as Burke calls it, which was — 

"Fnll of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts ; 
a xoachine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, im- 
jpOTerislunent* and degradation of a people, — and the debasement, in them, of human natuxa 
itself, — as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man."* 

We hare given these things in all their odious and disgusting detail, be- 
cause otherwise the real spirit of Irish Protestant legislation — the animiti of 
tlwk Irish Rx)testant ascendancy which, though with clipped claws and 
drawn teeth, still growls and snarls, and means the mischief which it is too 

• Leftltf l»8ir Hemte l4«giMMb 


fiadjie to p^ixn^-^-caimot be tliorougUy uikderstood. This hish Catholie 
Poial C(Mle was not struck off at a beat — ^was not made in a huny, in the 
tmnultuousykror of revolution, when men's excited passions goad them on 
to Tioleiices and wrongs from the bare thought of which they would, in quiet 
times, shrink back appalled ; — ^it was a thing done on system ; deliberately . 
planned, deliberately executed, slowly and carefully perfected at interval 
spread over little less than ninety years. It was devised and matured In 
times of profound tranquillity. During all those ninety years the Irish. 
Catholics never once revolted, never once showed a disposition or desire to 
refvolt. In the rebellion of 1 7 15 — in the rebellion of 1 745 — the Catholics o£ 
Ireland were quiet and loyal. In 1759, when a French invasion was ex- 
pected in the south, the Catholics came forward with a tender of their 
allegiance, and with the offer of money aid to government, which offer the 
Lord Lieutenant " graciously received.'* They were all along patient and 
quiet, from very broken-spiritedness — submissive under every firesh inflic- 
tion—humbly grateful for the smallest relaxation in the execution of the coda 
of intolerance. Still the system went on; every parliamentary session pro- 
duced some new act of pains and penalties, or some Commons' vote for a 
more stringent execution of existing acts. Some writers on this chapter of 
Irish history have endeavoured to discover a motive for the enactment of 
this penal code, in the anxiety of the ascendant party to protect, against all 
peril or possibility of counter-revolution, estates which they held under the 
forfeitures and attainders of the times of Ctomwell and Charles 11. Thus 
Dr. Madden lays it down that — 

** These laws, in which fanaticism and intolerance seem toliare been earried to thei» 
most savage excess, were not, in fitct, dcrired from either passion. They were designed 
for the protection of property which had been unjustly acquired, the tenure of which 
was derived from an act of parliament passed by the possessors themselves, and whidi 
was therefore liable to be repealed when they ceased to command a majority in tb« 
legislature. ♦ « • We have said that these laws were dictated by self-interest, and not 
by religious passion ; the proof is easy and irrefutable — it is notorious that the lawg 
prohibiting Catholic worship were executed far less strictly than those which excluded 
ftom publio offices, civil professions, and lucrative industry."* 

We question the validity of this explanation. The fears of self-intereflt 
Would accomit for a violent and sweeping proscription, enacted, in the heat 
of revolutionary conflict, to strengthen the hands of a new and unsettled 
government ; \mt we cannot so account for a prolonged series of legal 
t}Tannies and insults spread over the greater part of d century. Burke 
goes nearer to the truth of the matter when he says — 

"The new English interest was settled with as solid a stabilitv as anything in htrmaa 
affairs can look for. All the penal laws of that unparalleled code of oppression which 
were made after the last event [the reduction of Ireland in 1601] were manifestly the 
effects of national hatred and scorn towards a conquered people, whom the victors delighted 
to trample upon, and weie not at all afraid to provoke. Thetf were not the effect of their 
ftats^ but t^ their security ^"\ 

That the laws against Catholic worship were less strictly executed than 
those excludiBg from civil office and restricting the acquisition of property, 
is intdligxble enough. The latter, from the yery nature of them, executed 

• *» The United Irishmen, their Lives, and Times," voL i^ pp. 20-«. 
t lietter to Sir Hercules Lan^prishe, 

9 HI8T0BY OP TH» ' 

Aemselves ; but a strict execution of laws for putting down the religious' 
faith of three millions of human beings, is a clear matter-of-fact impossi- 
biUty. Our own theory of the penal code is a very simple one. That code 
expresses the insolence of a tjrrannical and victorious faction, flushed witli 
conquest. Jealous of its monopoly of power, fond of asserting and enjojong- 
that monopoly, proud of its assumed superiority of race, confident in the 
irresistible might of England to back it in all its misdoings, and bigoted to- 
ita own creed as a symbol of military and political ascendancy and EngHeh 
connexion. As Arthur Young says, " The domineering aristocracy of 
500,000 Protestants feel the sweets of having two millions ofslaves^^ 
This domineering aristocracy of five hundred thousand Protestants over 
two millions of slaves we find not in the statute-book alone, nor on the 
Journals of the House of Commons alone.f We meet it everywhere in the 
Ireland of the eighteenth century, pervading with one universal poison all 
Social relations. The men, and the class of men, who, as legislators, ignored 
the existence of five- sixths of their own people, as landlords ground the 
faces of the poor with every imaginable insolence and oppression. Arthur 
Young's description of the Irish landlord of his time gives us a full-length 
picture of the oligarch of the Protestant ascendancy, carrying all the vices 
of the basest legislation that the world has seen into the relations and 
business of private life : — 

'' The landlord of an Irish estate, inhabited by Roman Catholics, is a sort of despot^ 
who yields obedience, in whatever concerns the poor, to no law but that of his will. * • * 
A long series of oppressions, aided by many very ill-judged laws, have brought land- 
lords into a habit of exerting a very lofty superiority, and their vassals into that of an 
almost unlimited submission. Speaking a language that is despised, professing a religioa 
that is abhorred, and being disarmed, the poor find themselves, in many cases, slaves, even 
in the bosom of written liberty. • ♦ * A landlord in Ireland can scarcely invent an 
order which a servant, labourer, or cotter, dares to refuse to execute. Nothing satisfies 
him but an unlimited submission. Disrespect, or anything tending towards sauciness, 
he may punish with his cane or his horsewhip, with the most perfect security. A poor 
man would have his bones broken if he offered to lift his hand in his own defence. 
Knocking down is spoken of in the country in a manner that makes an Englishman 
ftare. ♦ ♦ * Nay, I have heard anecdotes of the lives cf people being made free 
with, without any apprehension of the Justice of a jury. But let it not be imagined 

• " Tour in Ireland," vol. ii., p 34. 

t These Commons* Journals are well worth consulting, as an index to the spirit of 
Irish Protestant legislation and legislators. They afford a most apt commentary on the 
enormities of the Statutes at Large. We there see how careful and zealous were the 
faithful Protestant Commons that the executive should be in harmony with the legisla/- 
ture. Session after session, we find them voting, and resolving, and addressing, to get 
the laws against Popery and Papists (such of them as were not in their nature self- 
. executory) more strictly put in force. Whenever anything went wrong, at home or 
abroad, they took it out on the poor Catholics. The familiar designation of five-sixths of 
the Irish people was, in House-of-Commons' dialect, the domestic enemi/, the common 
Mnemy. This was an established phrase in the parliamentary vocabulary. " In the reign 
of George I.," says Plowden ("History of Ireland," vol. ii., p. 70), "scarcely an 
address concerning the Catholics reached the crown, which did not brand them with 
this appellation." 

The judicial power faithfully co-operated with the legislative and executive, in giving 
effect to this wicked and horrible system. The law couxts ruled that the penal laws 
against Popery, being remedial statutes, — "made to prevent a mischief from the increase 
of Papists," — were to be interpreted not, like other penal laws, strictly in favour of the 
culprit, but liberalhj in favour of the Protestant interest. See the Lord Chancellor's 
dictum in Ogles v, Archbold. — " Howard's Special Ca&es on the Popery Laws," p. 18. 



that this is common ; formerly it happened every day, but law gains ground. It mM 
strike the most careless traveller to see whole strings of cars whipt into a ditch by a 
gentleman's footman to make way for his carriage ; if they are overturned, and broken 
in pieces, no matter — it is taken in patience ; were they to complain, they would, per^ 
haps, be horsewhipped. The execution of the law lies very much in the hands of justices 
of the peace, many of whom are dra^vn from the most illiberal class in the kingdom. If 
a poor man lodges a complaint against a gentleman, or any animal that chooses to call 
itself a gentleman, and the justice issues out a summons for his appearance, it is a fixed 
affront, and he will infallibly be called out. * • • It is a fact, that a poor man 

having a contest with a gentleman, must but I am talking nonsense, they know 

their situation too well to think of it. They can have no defence but by means of pro- 
tection from one gentleman against another, who probably protects his vassal as he 
would the sheep he intends to eat. 

" The colours of this picture are not charged. To assert that all these cases are Com« 
mon, would be an exaggeration ; but, to say that an unfeeling landlord will do all this 
with impunity, is to keep strictly to truth."* 

Add to this, the constant grating and rasping of the chuech nfisakce,— 
the alien, intrusive church, with tithe-proctors for its apostles, an armed 
constabulary for its evangelists and field-preachers, and no other divine 
service to perform than the service of writs, — and what possibly could come 
of the combination but that which did come — ^insurrection, outrage, mur- 
der ; the outbreaking, in all its various forms, of that stem, savage sense 
of justice, in the rights and mights of which down-trodden and crushed 
humanity will turn again, and take a wild revenge^ on its oppressors ! In 
the year 1762 was first heard a name of fearful significance in Irish his- 
tory- — ^the WnrTEBOTS ; the first, in time, of that series of combinations 
of misery and famine against oppression, which, continued through the 
Oak Boys, Right Boys, Defenders, Ribbonmen, and others, have lasted 
down to our own time — defying all the powers of law and military 
force, yielding only an occasional and precarious submission to the pacifi- 
cators of Catholic Associations and Repeal Associations — ^waging the 
wild, barbarous war of outraged nature against a yet more barbarous 
fiocial state, which, in practice as in theory, refused to recognise the 
existence of the people. 

Of these Whiteboys, the following is not the completest account we 
Bave met with, but it is the earliest ; and, having been written at the time 
and on the spot by an observant, right-hearted man, it possesses the value 
and interest of an original authority. In 1764, an English gentleman of 
Kent, on a tour in the then remote and unknown colony of Ireland, writes 
thus to his friend : — 

** You have frequently met with accounts in the public papers of the insurrections of 
the WhiteboySf as they are called in this country. From the people of fortune who have 
been sufferers by them, and who, too generally in this kingdom, look on the miserable 
'and oppressed poor in the most contemptible light, the accounts of these insurgent* 
have, for the most part, been too much exaggerated to be depended on. I have hinted, 
in the former part of this letter, that the severe treatment and oppression the lowest 
class of the inhabitants, in some parts of this kingdom, have met wit^h from their priests 

♦ " Tour in Ireland" (made in the years 1776-1778), vol. ii., pp. 29-30. 

On this subject of the character and social position of the Irish landlord class, we find 
the most perfect unanimity in the reports of the English tourists of that time. Thus 
Bush says, in his " Hibernia Curiosa " (1764) — " If in any part of the kingdom there are 
any n^d Irish to be found, it is in the western parts of this province (Connaught), for 
they have the least sense of law and government of any people^ in Ireland, I believe, 
txc^t that oj their hati^hty and tyrannic landlords** 

10 mraOST OiF THB 

tmd rabordinaU l&ndlorda, wat the priBci|Ml caoie of tboM dktaibaiieM Utty hacm m^ 

with firora theai. I have bat too much reuon to belifivt this remArk was well grouaded^ 
Ikom the observations I had an opportunity of making in the midst of the country whsitt 
these insurgents hare given the greatest (tisturbance. 

"The origin, of their denomination of * Whiteboys' was from the practice of weanng^ 
their shirts witboutside of their clothes^ the better to distinguish each other in tba 
night-time. It happened that we were at Kilkenny, on our road to Waterford, at th« 
Teiy time of the last considerable insurrection of tliese unhappy wretches, in the sooUi 
of Kilkenny county, not far from Waterford. I was naturally led to inquire into the 
cause of these insurrections, and the pretensions of the insurgents themselves for creating 
these disturbances. 

'* From the people of easy and affluent circumstances it is natural to suppose th« 
accounts would be very different from such as were given by those of the same class with 
the delinquents. By comparing these, however, with the obvious appearance of things in 
the country, I soon had sufficient reason to believe their disquiet arose, in general, frona 
the severe treatment they met with from their landlords and the lords of the manon^ 
and principally from their elergy. Our road to Waterford lay through the very midst of 
these unh^>py insurgents, and we were consequently advised to take a different route. 
Why ? — whence should be the fear ? We have neither deprived them of their common 
rights nor their potatoes. They have no quarrel with us, who have never injured them. 
Persuade your insatiable priests, of every denomination, to act themselves the precepts 
of charity and humanity they preach, and they will be as safe in their houses by nigfat^ 
as we shall probably be, in the midst of than by day. 

. ** We rode through the country, in which they were assembled in great numbers, but 
the very day before the last considerable engagement they had with the troops quar- 
tered at the towns in the neighbourhood, but met with nu molestation from any of 
them. The very next day after we came to Waterford the news was brou^t of this 
engagement, about four or five miles from the town. The opinions and representations 
oi the inhabitants of the town were various on the merits of the affair ; but it was easy 
to distinguish the sentiments of the humane from the aggravated representations of 
those whose inveterate prejudices against these unhappy sufferers instigated them to set 
these disturbers of the peace of their country in the worst point of view, and, withont 
any apparent candour in their representations, to place the rise of them in an idle, tur- 
bulent, and rebellious disposition of the insurgents. The very qj^Hctrt of the troepg 
wished they toould drive the whole fraternity of parsons out of the coutitry; and with good 
reason ; for, if the parsons cannot live here on the great tithes of tUe com, and aboat 
which they have seldom any disputes with their parishioners, how is the unhappy peasant 
to subsist on the produce of ten or fifteen perches of potatoes, the whole provision, per- 
haps for a twelvemonth, for himself and family ? — yet even the very tenth of these im 
demanded by the insatiable, unrelenting priest. 

" On the day after the engagement, we left Waterford for Carrick-on-Suir, and, ib 
our way, met with some of the troops that had been engaged with the Whiteboys, and 
were asked if we had seen any of them lurking about in companies. But their inquiries 
were ill-directed; for we would sooner have headed them, and attacked the first parwMi's 
liouse we had met with, than discovered their retreat. 

** I made it my business to inquire, in the most friendly manner, of some of these 
unhappy sufferers of the lowest class, as they fell in my view, the reason of their 
exposing themselves to so much danger, by raising such disturbances in their countiy. 
To which their answers were invariably to this effect : — that their lives were of little 
value to them ; that the severe and hard dealing they had met with from their priests 
and the lords of the manors had made them desperate ; that the former wanted to re- 
duce the small subsistence they had to live on, and the latter deprived them of the very 
few privileges and common rights they had, from time immemorial, enjoyed ; that against . 
these only were their resentments pointed, and to recover their long-standing privileges 
was the sole cause of their exposing themselves, or other people, to any danger, and not 
from any disposition to rebel against their king or the peace of their country. 

** I cannot but acknowledge, in favour of them, that the general civility of the people^ 
with the apparent honesty and candour of their accounts, gave the greatest credit to 
their representations."* 

* Busk's *'mbemia Gariosa," pp. 188-137. 

fiUfH: BKHW.T.TOy. il 

Such was Iiisk Wltttebojkin — as such is Wekh BebecGaisna — a barba- 
rous insurgency of nature against the more barbarous oppressicm of law ; 
the JtKxhmma of poverty taking wild vei^eance on tb« Jacobinism of 
wealth and power. When the rich man steals the poor man*s common, 
mid tithes the poor man's potatoes, let the rich man see well to it that the 
poor man do not hough his cattle and bum his mansion. 

And what had the Protestant-landlord parliament to say to Whiteboyism 
and Whiteboys ? — ^Why, the Protestant-landlord parliament appointed a 
select committee to inquire into the cattses and progress of the Popish 
Instjkkection in thepromace of Munster^ As if man could not rise 
up in natural revenge against unnatural oppression, without believing in 
transnbstantiation and seven sacraments ! We do not want the evidence of 
the official declaration in the *' London Gazette" (May, 1762) to assure us 
that " the authors of those riots consisted indiscriminately of persons of 
different persuasions, and that no marks of disaffection to his Majesty's 
person or government appeared in any of those people.'* Whiteboy and 
Rebecca riots come not of the Popish persuasion, nor the Wesleyan per- 
suasion — but of the " persuasion" that unjust and cruel law is a nuisance, 
to be abated and put down. ^ 

The " Popish Insurrection" fully answered the purpose of its inventors. 
There quickly followed that which, in Ireland, always has followed agrarian 
insurgency — not redress of old grievances, but infliction of new ones; co- 
ercion acts, year after year (by one of which, 11 and 12 George III., c. 5, 
men were to be hcmgedj under certain circumstances, without tbiai*) ; 
I^eijury, bought and paid for ; terrori^n, reduced to system, and conducted 
secundum ariem by ministers of kw and gospel : and all the other iDc 
cidents of a Popish plot of the genuine Titus Oates sort. Dr. Curry, 
writing in 1786, says of this Whiteboy time : — 

" Such, during the space of three or four years, was the fearful and pitiable state of 
the Boman Catholics of Munster, and so general did the panic at length become — so 
many of the lower scwt were already hanged, in goal, or on the informer's lists, that the 
greater part of the rest fied through fear ; so that the land lay untilled for want of hands 
to cultivate it, and a famine was with reason apprehended. As for the better sort, who 
had something to lose (and wlio, for that reason, were the persons cliiefly aimed at by 
the managers of the presecutions), they were at tlie utmost loss how to dispose of them- 
selres. If they left tha country, their absence was construed into a proof of their 
guilt ; if they remained in it, they were in imminent danger of haring their lives sworn 
away by informers and approvers, for the suborning and corrupting of witnesses on that 
occasion was frequent and barefaced to a degree almost beyond belief. The venj stews 
teere raked, and the goals rummaged^ in search of evidence; and the most notoriously profli- 
gate in both were selected and tampered with, to give information of the private trans- 
actions and designs of reputable men, with whom they never had any dealing, inter- 
-course, or acquaintance ; nay, to whose very persons they were often found strangers 
when confronted at th«ir trial."t 

Of these abominations we need not speak further now. These witnesses 
of the stews and goals — ^bought and paid for with the people's money, clothed 
and fed at the people's cost, drilled in Dublin Casde, and marshalled by 

* Commons' Journals, vol. vii., p. 154. 

t ** Historical auid Cciiical Review of the Civil Wan in Ireland" (178t6), vol. ii, 
p. 282. 

In the case of Nicholas Sheehy, parish priest of Clogheep, we have a complete cxhi- 
Htion of tlie government of that hateful tiiae.^— See Ma<id(8a'e ** United IxiihmtB»*' 
fieeosd SeriM : Hktodc^ Sntco(fai6tioQ. 

a 'HISIOBT 07 tita 

castle officials into a regular Battalion of Testimony — ^we shall meet again 
some thirty years later. 

Such ^as the social and political condition, during the greater part of 
the eighteenth century, of the people whom law and government " did not 
presume to exist" A sufficient introduction this will ever be, while men 
are men, to rebellions, fierce and bloody even as that of 1798. 



TION — ^wood's halfpence — ^DOCTOE LUCAS — THE UNDEETAKEES 


We must again ask leave to detain the reader for awhile on the threshold 
of our history.- In the preceding chapter we have reviewed the social and 
political condition, during the gi'eater part of the eighteenth century, of 
that Irish Catholic people whom the law did not presume to exist, and who 
breathed only imder favour of government connivance. We have traced 
the growth amd progress of the savage penal code, and done justice to the 
" vicious perfection" of that happy constitution in Church and State which 
indulged the " domineering aristocracy of five hundred thousand Protest- 
ants with the sweets of having two millions of slaves." We have followed 
the domineering aristocracy from the business of law-making into private 
life, and have seen the grand collective and incorporated tyranny of a Pro- 
testant legislature distributing itself over the land, in the countless Httle 
individual tyrannies of Protestant landlords — ^producing a state of things 
which reacted in the crimes of Whiteboy insurgency, and the yet blacker 
trimes of a perjurious and partisan administration of justice. 

Still, we have not yet written the Introduction to the History of the Irish 
Rebellion of 1 798. That rebellion was not a Catholic rebellion ; was 
not, mainly and directly, the outbreak of Catholic discontents ; was only 
partially and indirectly related to the abominations of the penal code. It 
would be nearer the truth to say, with Lord Plunket, that it was a " Pro- 
testant rebellion ;" inasmuch as the organisation in which it took its origin 
began not in the Catholic south, but in the Protestant north, and its ulti- 
mate aim — ^not Catholic ascendancy, but Irish independence — ^was pointed 
by the Protestants by whom the rising was first planned. The whole truth 
of the matter is, however, as we shall afterwards find, that it was neither a 
Catholic nor a Protestant, but an Irish rebellion ; with Protestants far 
its directing head. Catholics for its executive members, and Irish national 
independence for its object. The rebellion of 1798 was the confizience of 
two streams of political discontent, of which the Catholic, although the 
widest^ was not the deepest nor the most rapid ; and to write its history. 

IltlSH JREBTtT.TJOy; 13 

truly and fully, we must trace each of these stfeams from its source, down to 
the point at which their several currents met and mingled in the Society 
of United Irishmen. The imited Irish movement, with the insurrection in 
winch it exploded, was not a movement of Catholics against Protestants, 
nor of Protestants against Catholics, hut of Irishmen against Great Britdn. 
Its genealogy runs thus : — The first Society of United Irishmen grew out 
of the ashes of the Volunteers, and the disappointed hopes of the legislative 
revolution of 1782 ; and the Volunteers grew out of that parUamentary and 
popular Opposition to British misgovemment,. which had shown itself at 
intervals almost from the beginning of the century, and had gone on 
steadily widening and deepening from the accession of George III. to the 
American war. In order, therefore, to be quite at home in the causes of 
the Irish rebellion of 1798, we must review now the pohtical relations, not 
of one section of the population of Ireland to another, but of Ireland itself 
to Great Britain; and trace the action and re-action of that system of 
venaUty, wastefulness, oppression, teasing restriction, and shameless cor« 
ruption which England inflicted on Protestant Ireland, as the price of 
helping Protestant Ireland to enjoy the sweets of tyranny over its millions 
of Popish slaves. 

For the present, then, we take leave of the Irish Catholic people— 
those five-sixths of the people of Ireland that were not a people. The 
penal code did its work ; making its victims, for the greater part of a 
century, a perfect social nonentity, without pohtical action or influence, 
without political existence — ^in a word, dead in law. It is truly said by 
Plowden — 

" The reign of Queen Anne established a most important, though a much unheeded 
principle of observation, which the impartial investigator of the Irish annals cannot lose 
sight of. The numerical body of the people having been effectually excluded from 
taking an active part in the affairs of the nation, every important or embarrassing ques* 
tion Uiat has arisen between Great Britain and Ireland, affecting the political situation 
of the two nations, from the revolution to the accession of his present Majesty, has been 
as completely cleared and disembarrassed of any interference, interest, or influence of 
the body of Irish Roman Catholics, as if they had no actual existence. All national dif- 
ferences, complaints, and grievances have been from Protestants to Protestants. ♦ • ♦ 
It is a political paradox, though an historical truth, that in the agitation of every national 
question during the last century, the sense, the interest, or the influence of the majority 
of the nation, has not thrown the weight of a scruple into the scales."* 

Leaving, therefore, the Irish CathoHc people in their condition of po- 
litical impotence and torpor — with the nota bene that they are not dead, 
but sleeping, and that they and their wrongs will rise upr again in the day 
of national reckoning — we shall speak now of the " difierences, complaints, 
and grievances" which arose during the eighteenth century between Pro- 
testant Ireland and Protestant England, and which gradually created that 
spirit of Anglo -Irish nationahty which, after years of imavailing parUa* 
mentary conflict, eflected a legal revolution in 1782, and attempted a mill, 
tary revolution in 1798. 

The revolution of 1688 — ^in Ireland we should call it rather, dating from 
the surrender of Limerick, the revolution of 1691 — ^placed the Protestant 
Anglo-Irish colony in a condition of servitude and vassalage to Great Bri- 
tam, hardly more tolerable than that which the Protestant colony at the 

« " Hiatorical Keview of the State of Ireland," yo\ i., p. 321. 


) time imposed on their 0»tli<^c feBow-co uutiyiu e iu Ireland had then 
a ** domestic parliament," so called ; but it was a ntkve^ as well as a tytant 
parliament, impe^nt for all purposes but tbose of domestic corruption and 
oppf^ession. It was a parliament' which did not possess either the foil 
power, or the sole power, of legislating for the country which it nomuuUy 
governed. Tbe parliament of Ireland, under Poyning's Law,* had no 
proper and efiectual initiative. It could only frame what were called heads 
qfbiilSy which heads of bills must first be submitted to the Lord Lieutraiant 
and his privy council, who might, or mi^t not, at their discretion, transmit 
them to En^and for the approval oi the English crown and privy council — 
whence they might, or might not return, altered or unaltered, at their dis» 
cretion; and only after this double process of filtration could any net 
residuum of legislation begin to be realised. The Irirfi House of Com- 
mons was at full liberty to debate and vote what had been debated and 
voted twice over already in the Irish and EngHsh councils. This singular 
sort of domestic legislature had not even a veto on Irish legislation. The 
British parliament claimed and exercised the right of legislating at plea- 
sure, over the heads of the despised and powerless assembly in College 
Green — cramping Irish trade, regulating the Irish church, directing the 
sale of the forfeited estates of Irish rebels, and, in all matters, managing 
Irish business according to their own liking, as if Ireland had had no psurlia- 
ment of her own at alLf And, on the right being feebly iind hesitatingly con- 
tested by the Irish peers, eaiiy in the reign of Ge<w^ I., all doubts were 
quickly cleared away by a declaratory act (6 Greorge I., c. 5.) extinguishing 
the appellate jurisdiction assumed by the Irish House of Lords, and es- 
tablisbiing the right (or the might) of the British legislature to make laws for 
Ireland, and levy taxes on Ireland, as for and on any other colonial de- 
pendency of the British crown. Heally, one feels a sort of pleasure in 
recording this. It was a fit and fair retribution : as the Irish parUament 
ignored the existence of the Irish people, the English government ignored 
the existence of the Irish Parliament. 

. This claim of Great Britain to legislate for Ireland was not a theoretical 
and barren claim ; it was fruitful of practical results, systematically aimed 
at the degradation and impoverishment of all that part of the Irish people 
whose degradation and impoverishment were not already sufficiently 
provided for by the domestic legislature. " The pai-liament of England,'' 
says Lord Clare, in his speech on the Union, " seems to have considered 
the permanent debility of Ireland as the best security of the British 
crown, and the Irish parliament to have rested the security of the colony 
upon maintaining a perpetual and impassable barrier against the ancient 
ii^abitants of the country." For this " permanent debility" the British 
parhament made a very early and effectual proiision, by crippling the 
trade of Ireland. In the year 1698, the English House of Lords, in 
their address to the crown, lament and c<Hnplain of ^' the gbowixg 
manufaciure of cloth in Ireland^ both by the cheapness of all sorts o| 
necessaries for life, and goodness of materials for making all manner of 
cloth" — (just as an English House of Lords mi^t complain now of the 
growing agricultiu?e of Ohio or Tamboff, both by the cheapness of all sorts 

* Sir Edward Poyning was the Attorney-General of Henry VII, 
t See Plowden'8 ^Historical BevieWj" toL i^ p. 229« 

of neoessaries for Efe, and tbe goodness of materiak for raising all msam&c 
of gnuii) — and thej boseedi his Majesty to crush this growing manufacture 
of <d0t;h in Ireland ; to " declare, in the most public and effectual way that 
nay be, to all your subjects of Irdiand, that the growth and increase of the 
woolien nianufacture there hath long, and will ever be looked upon with 
great jealousy by all your sulijects of this kingdom."* His Majesty replied, 
that *^ he would ts^e care to do what their lorddiips desired ;" and, 
accordingly, by 10 and 1 1 William III., c. 10, of the Engli^ parliament^ 
tlie exportations of all wool, or woollen manui^cture, from Ireland, to any 
country whatever, was prohibited, under penalty of confiscation, imprison- 
ment, and transportation.! The Irish House of Commons bitterly c(xn- 
plained of this piece of tyranny, at their next meeting in 1703 — ^but they 
complained in vain. If England helped them to prevent the further growth 
of Popery, they must allow England to prevent the further growth of th«r 
trade. It is pleasing to learn that from this woollen ptx>hibition Protestant 
Ireland was th\e chief sufferer. 

This tyranny of the " mother" country, although submitted to perforce, 
as the condition of that foreign support without which domestic tyranny 
eould not have held its ground against the poor Catholics, was not 
submitted to ps^iently. The men of the Protestant ascendancy had 
English blood in their veins. More than half of them were Presby teriwis, 
^fescendants of Cromwell's soldiers and partisans ; the " spawn of the oki 
Covenant" against prelacy; well leavened with puiitanism and repub- 
Ibaxusm ; not over loyal, either to Church or King ; vehemently, and, on 
occasion, riotously opposed to the notion of a union with Great Britain ; J 
and so little in love with the Protestant church, when their pockets were 
eoncemed, as to vote the levying of tithe of agistment injurious to ths 
- Protestant interest.^ This puritan, republican temper of a large portk>n 
of the Protestant population of Ireland was the germ, first, of a steady and 
growing parliamentary opposition to the measures of the English govern- 
ment, and, ultimately, of the Volunteer Association, and the Revolution 
<rf 1782. Not among the debilitated, degraded, and pauperised Ca- 
tholics of the south, but among the Presbyterian Protestants of the north 
and the metropolis, did the first sign appear of that new and important 

* Lords' Journals, vol. xvi. p. 314. 

t See Hely Hutchinson's ** Commercial Restraints on Ireland," 1780. 

English restrictions on Irish trade began, as early as 1663, with 15 Charles IL, c. 7^ 
whinisically entitled "An act for the encouragement of trade." A similar legislativs 
euriosity of the same reign (18 Charles II., c 2) styles the importation of cattle from 
Irelaiid a common nuUanee, 

la addition to the above, it is worth noting, that between 1740 and 1780 there wer* 
ao fewer than twenty-four embargoes laid by the British Govemmeot on all Irish com* 
■leroe whatever. One of these lasted three years. 

i There were Protestant anti-union riots at Dublin in the reign of George II.—* 
Plowden's " Historical Review," vol. i. p. 327. 

§ Commons* Journals, vol. vi., p. 673. 

This tithe-of-agistment vote had important consequences. It threw the burden of 
the chiirch off the rich Protestant proprietor, whose land was chiefly under pasturage, aod 
on to the poor Catholic cotter, whose little patch of potato ground was unprotected by 
I^rotestant Commons' votes. It rendered pasturage so much more proHtablc than tillage, 
that an extensive consolidation of farms, with a clearing out of tenantry, ensued ; the 
xesolt of which was the emigration to America of vast numbers of brave and resolute 
>■•■ who hated British rule^ and wete ready in dw time to fight, heart and hand, th^ 
Aattles of their adopted countrj. 

16 ,HI8I0BT 07 THE 

political phenomenon — an independent Irish nationality. This feeling 
of Protestant Irish nationality gave early indications of its existence. 
When M^olyneux, one of the memhers for Dublin University, published 
his celebrated treatise, " The Case of Ireland's being Bound by Acts of 
Parliament in England, Stated" (1698), the doctrine of Irish independence 
found willing and eager listeners, both in parliament and out of it ; and 
though the book was formally condemned by a vote of the English 
Commons, and ordered to be burned by the hangman, yet not the less did 
this first assertion, by an Irish Protestant, of Irish nationality and inde- 
pendence, sink deep into the heart of his country. It efficiently aided, as 
it significantly prognosticated, the great national struggle of 1782, when 
the English interest in Ireland openly proclaimed itself an Irish interest, 
and refused, sword-in-hand, to be any longer " bound by acts of parlia- 
ment in England." 

The first political occurrence which developed powerfully and with 
effect, though transiently, a national and anti-English feeling in Ireland, 
was the business of Wood's hal^>€nce; a small matter — as Mr. Croall's 
mail-coach contract is a small matter — though leading, like that, to im- 
portant results. About the middle of the reign of George I. one Wood 
got a patent from the English government for coining copper halfpence 
and farthings for Irish circulation, to the amount of 108,000/.; which 
coinage he made of such base material, that the whole mass together was 
not worth the odd 8,000/. All Ireland rose up against the insulting cheat. 
Parliament-houses, magistrates, corporations, grand juries — all protested 
and agitated together against the English government and its thievish 
patentee ; the powers of the press were, for the first time in Irish history, 
evoked into action ; Dean S^vift's famous JDrapier letters were cried about 
the streets for a penny each, and pasted up in cottages and ale-houses 
all over the country; and the matter ended in the rescinding of the 
patent, the calling-in of the halfpence, and the triumph of the Irish peo- 
ple over the British government. The business in itself seems trivial 
enough, but it was no trifle in the eyes of the English cabinet and its 
adherents. Primate Boulter, the wily and dexterous manager of what 
was called the English interest in Ireland, wrote, in 1 724, to the govern- 
ment at home — 

" We are at present in a very bad state, and the people so poisoned with apprehen- 
sions of Wood's halfpence, that I do not see there can be any hopes of justice against 
any person for seditious writings, if he does but mix somewhat about Wood in-them. 
* * * Our pamphlets, and the discourses of some people of weight, run vert/ much 
upon the indepeivdency of this kingdom ; and, in our present state, that is ?i. very popular 
notion, * ♦ « i find, by my own and others* inquiries, that the people of every 
religion, country, and party here, are alike set against Wood*s halfpence, and that their 
agreement in this has had a very unhappy influence on tJie state of this nation, by bringing on 
intimacies between Papists and Jacobites, and the Whigs, who before had no corres- 
pondence with them.*'* 

A most ingenious confession of the divide-and-govern policy, and a 
most apt illustration of what was meant by " the English interest in 
Ireland." The agreement of all sects and classes of Irishmen in a 
common Irish interest, was a *' most unhappy influence on the state of 

« " Letters written by his Excellency Hugh Boulter, D.D., Lord Primate of all Ire* 
land,** vol. i., pp. 3-8. 


this nation." Altogether, this affair of Wood^s halfpence, trivial-looking 
as it is at this distance of time, is not without its significance for us, and 
is well entitled to its place in our introduction to the History of the Re- 
bellion of 1798. It denoted the birth of that new power — ^an Ibish 
PEOPii^ — ^wbich produced the events of 1782 and of 1798. In fact, this 
popular opposition to the Englishman's spurious copper was the first 
Association of United Irishmen. 

. And truly Ireland wanted something to rouse her from political torpor, 
and spirit her up to do battle with the incubus of the Engli^ interest. 
Anything more corrupt, more anti-national, more utterly sordid and vile 
than the Anglo-Irish government of that time, this world has not often 
seen. The system is thus described in the general, by Lord Clare, in his 
speech on the Union :— 

" The executive govemment was committed nominally to a Viceroy, but essentially to 
Lords Justices, selected from the principal state officers of the country, who were en- 
trusted with the conduct of what was called the " King's business," but might, with 
more propriety, have been called the business of the Lords Justices. The Viceroy came to 
Ireland for a few months only in two years, and returned to England perfectly satisfied 
with his mission, if he did not leave the affairs of the English government worse than 
he found them; and the Lords Justices, in his absence, were entrusted implicitly 
with the means of consolidating an aristocratic influence, which made them the neces- 
sary instruments of the English government." 

And the legislative was like the executive ; the instrument was worthy 
of the hands Uiat used it. That the Irish parliament of that time was a 
rotten parliament — ^representative, neither directly nor indirectly, of any 
popular principle or power, but only of the money power and the aris- 
tocratic power — ^is a fact which we need scarcely be at the pains of 
putting on record. But the specific character of its rottenness, and the 
nature of the means by which it was managed, are perhaps less generally 
known. Dr. Thomas Campbell, writing in tiie year 1777, of a system 
which by that time had been pretty well broken up, but which, during 
the first half of the century, had reigned with little disturbance, says — 

" In this nation are three or four grandees, who have such an influence in the House 
of Commons that their coalition would at any time give them a clear majority upon any 
question. It has therefore always been a maxim of government to disunite these fac- 
tious chiefs. And, still further to disable opposition, it has been thought expedient to 
disengage, as much as possible, the followers from their leaders. ITiis was attempted 
by Lord Chesterfield so early as the year 1745 ; but his stay was too short to effect it. 

" Formerly these principtds used to stipulate with each new Lord Lieutenant, whose 
oflBce was biennial and residence but for six months, upon what terms they would carry 
the King's business through the house, so that they might not improperly be called l/h- 
dertakert. They provided that the disposal of all court favours, whether places, pensions, 
or preferments, should pass through their hands, in order to keep their suite in an abso- 
lute state of dependence upon themselves. All applications were made by the leader, 
^ho claimed as a right the privilege of gratifying his friends in proportion to their 
numbers. Whenever such demands were not complied with, then the measures of go- 
vemment were sure to be crossed and obstructed ; and the session of parliament beciune 
& constant struggle for ^ower, between the heads of parties who used to force them- 
selves into the office of Lord Justice, according to the prevalence of their interest."* 

Can it surprise ,us that the same writer who records this of the go- 
vemment of Ireland, tells us of its people, that he found them '' either 
moping under the sullen gloom of inactive indigence^ or blindly asserting 

« « Fhilosophieal Sonrey of the South of Ireland," p. 66. 


the rights of nature in nocturnal insurrections, att^ded with circum- 
stances of ruinous devastation and savage cruelty.'* 

These Undertakers, who, as Lord Charlemont says, ** were certainly 
well fitted to preside at the funeral of the common weal," constituted the 
aristoeratie influence spoken of by Lord Clare. The system was event- 
ually found to he too difficult and uncertain of management, and it was 
broken up — ^by whom, and how, we shall learn presently. 

Meanwhile, a public national spirit continued to work and grow in 
the Protestant section of the population of Ireland, and from time to time 
gave signs of life. The merit of organising a regular and progressdvcly 
powerfid popular and paiiiamentary opposition to the anti-national go- 
Tcmment of the Undertakers and the English cabinet belongs to the 
once-celebrated, but now nearly forgotten. Dr. Charles Lucas. Br. Lucas, 
originally a Dublin apothecary, afterwards member <d pariiament for 
Dublin, and for nearly thirty years leader of the Irish opposition to the 
English interest, was a man of limited knowledge, narrow and poorly- 
cultivated intellect, and violent temper — ^but bold, ardent, active and» 
for anything that appears to the contrary, thoroughly honest and un- 
selfish. He began his political career about the year 1743, with a vehe- 
ment and, no doubt, excellently well-merited attack, on certain civic 
abuses in the corporation of Dublin, in the course of which he wrote and 
spoke much *^ sedition,'' both against the Dublin corporation in particular 
and the British government in general. The Cast^ was firightened, 
and determined to crush him. Passages were selected from his writings, 
for the perusal of the Attorney-General ; and the House of Commans, 
whose privileges he had defended, voted him (according to a certain 
short and shsup way they had of dealing with men and tlm^s they did 
not like) an enemy to his country. To avoid the storm, Lucas escaped to 
England, and there he remained till the accession of George III., when he 
returned to Ireland, and was sent to agitate in parliament as member for 
the city of Dublin. 

From about this period, Irish politics assume a tone of higher and more 
sustained importance. For some years previously, the English interest 
had been progressively beooming more and more an independent Irish 
interest. Within the walls of the Irish House of Commons an occasicmal 
and incipient opposition had made its appearance, which, on some ques- 
tions of parliamentary privilege, could now and then obtain a majority, to 
the infinite perplexity of the Eing's friends and hinderance of the King's 
business. In 1749 the Commons commenced a war of votes and reso- 
lutions with the British cabinet, in defence of their constitutional right 
to direct the appropriation of surplus revenue without the previous con- 
sent of the crown. But so little, store was set on Irish Commons' votes 
aad resolutions, that the question was cut short by a King's letter, quietly 
drawing the money in dispute out of the treasury ; in revenge for which 
afitont the Commons speedily asserted their dignity (1751) by the bold 
stroke rf expelling from their house one Mr. Ar&ur Jones Nevil, a func- 
tionary of government, £)r peculation, embezademei^ waA fraud. This 
affXFopriatian question continued to be a subyect of conffiot, and a test of 
jg^ength, betwieen the new Irish interest and tlie £^lish cabinet It was 
re-opened in 1753, by the Lord Lieutenant (the Duke of Dorset) informing 
the Commons <m thor meeting, thatt his >M«jesty would ^graciously con- 


sent ^* to the surpliis reveniie being approj»iated — as they, in fact, in- 
tended to appropriate it — in reductbn of the public debt. The CoDEunoos 
passed heads of a bill to that effect, without mentioniDg the gracious con- 
sent of MajeBtjy and afterwards rejected the bill, in consequenoe of the 
mimstry having altered it by insertion of the consent. The parliamentary 
opposition found vigorous ooadjutors out of doors. The Viceroy was 
obliged, in consequence of the mooting of this unpopular topic, to make 
his escape out of the country, under escort of the military and of a mob 
hired and made drunk fca: the occanon. 

This appropriation question of the reign of George U. was something 
more, in its results, than a mere dispute of parliaraentiuy form and 
privilege. It powerfully aided and quickened the growth df a iqoirit of 
nationality and independence, both in parliament and out of it It 
communicated life and heat to the House of Coanimons of Ireland; — so 
rapid was the importance which it gave to that assembly^ that a JxiTOugh 
sold in 1754 for three times at much as weas ^ven in 1750."* The 
illufitration places in rather an equivocal Hght the practical worth of the 
new parliamentary opposition, with regard to the real interests of the 
country. Still, it was better thus than not at all. It serves to show the 
riong power and spirit of the Opposition, that a few years later (1757) we 
find them overhauling the pension list, and bandying sharp resolutions and 
messages therei]qK>n with their Lord Lieutenant.f 

The death of George 11^ and the consequent summoning of a new^ 
parliament, gave fresh strength to the Opposition. The first years of the 
new reign .were occupied with discussion and agitation on the question 
of limiting the duration of parliaments. Hitherto, the -Irish House of 
Commons had continued undisturbed, unless dissolved by prerogative, 
during the sovereign's life-time. The parliament of George II. had sat 
through the entire reign of that king — a period of thirty-three years ; in 
which time the most retentive memory must have grown superannuated, 
and outlived all recollection of constituents (if any), responsibility, and 
popular control. The Irish member's tenure of lus seat was, in fact, as 
against the people, a life estate — as against the crown, a tenancy at will, 
of which prerogative might at any moment dispossess him. The jobbery, 
venality, rapacity, oppression and corruption, of every kind and degree, 
resulting from such a state of things, made this life-tenancy of seats in 
parliament a glaring, first-class gricTance — among the earliest which the 
new Irish interest set itself to redress. For the first eight years of 
George III.'s reign, accordingly, the grand measure of the patriots was 
a Septennial Bill. The history of this business is instructively and 
curiously illustrative, both of the character of the Irish parliament and 
of its constitutional relations to the British Government. Of course it 
was not in human nature that a measure for abridging their own tenure 
of power should be especially acceptable to a majority of the new 

♦ Hardy's "Life of the Earlof ChaTlemont,** vol. i., p. 81. 

t The iniqidties of an Irish pension list in the middle of the eighteenth century, are 
of that sort of things nhich may be ** more easily imagined than described.*' In 1763, a 
member of the House of Commons pithily observes: — ** It is written, * that the wages oC 
sm is death :' but whoerer will look into our list of pensions will have reason to say 
that * the wages of sin is— Irebad ! ' "-—Ddatet IMative to the Affaxrt oj hn^tmd^ in Urn 
ymn 17«8 uud 1764, 


House of Commons. Yet the pressure from without, and the resolute 
pertinacity of the minority within, made it not altogether safe or pleasant 
to reject that measure ; seeing that Dublin mobs could, upon occasion, 
subject unpopular representatives to a description of " individual and per- 
sonal responsibility," more stringent and sununary than constitutional. 
The operation of Poyning's Law suggested to the embarrassed legislators 
an easy and fair-seeming solution of the difficulty, by which they fondly 
hoped to earn a cheap popularity, without seriously imperilling the 
happy constitution of their honourable house ; and that was, to pass the 
heads of the hated Septennial Bill, trusting to the Lord Lieutenant and 
his council— or, in their default, to the English ministry and council, to 
stop the further progress of a measure so distasteful and inconvenient to 
all parties. 

This ingenious policy was successfully adopted in two successive 
sessions. Once and again did a number of the Undertakers and their 
adherents, sufficient to make a majority, coalesce with the patriots in 
passing the heads of a Septennial Bill, which they were well assured 
would pass on to an early grave in the waste-paper stores of the privy 
council, and trouble them no more. But this was not a game to be 
played on for ever. Metropolitan and county meetings and petitions 
disclosed a fast-growing popular determination not to be ^longer trifled 
with by Undertaking chicanery and ministerial obstruction. In the session 
of 1767-8, the people petitioned and agitated once more ; and — 

"Once more the House of Commons sent the bill to their good friends the privy 
council, enjoying in public the applause of the nation for having passed it, and in secret 
the notable triumph that it would be so soon destroyed. But here matters assumed a 
different aspect; the privy council began to feel that this scene of deception had been 
long enough played by the Commons; and being, with some reason, very much out of 
humour that the plaudits of the nation should be bestowed on its representatives, whilst 
his Majesty's privy council, by the artifice of some leaders, was rendered odious to the 
country, resolved to drop the curtain at once, and certified the bill to the English privy 
councill-satisfied that it would encounter a much more chilling reception there than it 
had met with even from themselves. The aspect of affairs was again changed. The 
Irish privy council had disappointed the Commons, and the English cabinet now resolved 
to disappoint and punish both. Enraged with the House of Commons for its dissimula- 
tion, with the aristocracy for not crushing the bill at once ; and, amid all this confusion 
and resentment, not a little elated to have it at length in their power completely to hu- 
miliate that aristocracy, which, in the true spirit of useful, obsequious servitude, not 
only galled the people, but sometimes mortified and controlled the English cabinet 
itself; afraid of popular commotions in Ireland; feeling, as English gentlemen, that the 
Irish public was in the right, as statesmen, that it would be wise to relinquish at once 
what, in fact, could be but little longer tenable ; they sacrificed political leaders, privy 
councillors, and parliament, to their fears, their hatred, their adoption of a new policy; 
and, though last, not the least motive, it is to be hoped, their just sense of the English 
constitution. They returned the bill, and gave orders for the calling of a new par- 

* Hardy*s " Life of the Earl of Charlemont," vol. i., p. 252. 

The context of the above deserves quotation, as a most characteristic piece of private 
political history • — 

" It is impossible not to mention, in this place, an anecdote which I heard from Lord 
Charlemont, as well as others. He happened at this time to dine with one of the great 
parliamentary leaders; a large company, much drink, and much good humour. . In the 
midst of this festivity, the papers of the last English packet, which had just come in, 
were brought into the room, and given to the master of the house. Scarcely had he read 


One of the first acts of the first octennial parliament (the privy council 
had altered the proposed term of seven years into eight) was indicative of 
the altered tone of Irish parliamentary politics. In 1769 the Commons 
refused to proceed with a money bill, because it had not originated in their 

Yet the people profited nothing by all this petitioning and agitating, 
and parliamentary assertion of privilege. The most tangible and in- 
dubitable effect of the Octennial Bill was that it enhanced the value of 
^^oughr-jproperty^ by bringing the commodity oftener into the market. 
Distress went on, crime Went on,* and political corruption and venality 
went on, in an ever-increasing ratio of celerity and extent. The govern- 
ment by Undertakers having been found, by recent experience, too 
troublesome of management and too uncertain of result to secure the 
progress of the King's business, or promote the convenience of the King's 
Mends, a new system was determined on by the British cabinet, and 

one or two of them, when it appeared that he was extremely agitated. The company 
was alarmed. 

*• ' "What's the matter ? — Nothing, we hope, has happened, that——* 

" ' Happened V exclaimed their kind host, and swearing most piteously — ' Happened !^-- 
the Septennial Bill is returned!* 

" A burst of joy from Lord Charlemont, and the very few real friends of the bill who 
happened to be present. The majority of the company, confused, and indeed almost 
astounded, began, after the first involuntary dejection of their features, to recollect that 
they had, session after session, openly voted for this bill, with many an internal curse, 
heaven knows ! But still they had uniformly been its loudest advocates ; and, therefore, 
' it -would be somewhat decorous not to appear too much cast down at their own unex- 
pected triumph. In consequence of these politic reflections, they endeavoured to adjust 
their looks to the joyous occasion as well as they could. But they were soon spared the 
awkwardness of assumed felicity. 

" * Thfe bill is not only returned,* continued their chieftain, * but — ^but — iht parliameru 
ir dissolved!* 

" Hypocrisy far more disciplined than theirs, could lend its aid no further. If the first 
intelligence which they heard was tolerably doleful, this was complete discomfiture. 
They sank into taciturnity, and the leaders began to look in fact, what they had been so 
often politically called, a company of undertakers. They had assisted at the parliamentary 
funersd of some opponents ; and now, like Charles V., though without his satiety of 
worldly vanities, they were to assist at their own. In the return of this fatal bill was 
their political existence completely inurned. Lord Charlemont took advantage of their 
silent mood, and quietly withdrew from this group of statesmen, than whom a more 
ridiculous, rueful set of personages in his life, he said, he never beheld. The city, in 
consequence of the intelligence of the evening, was in a tumult of gratitude and ap- 
plause; illuminations were everywhere diffused, and our unintentionally victorious 
senators were obliged, on their return home, to stop at the end of almost every 
street, and huzza, very dismally, with a very merry, very patriotic, and very drunken 

* Much of the social condition of a country is to be gathered from its newspapers, 
especially from its newspaper advertisements. We have before us a copy of the 
Dublin Mercury oi September 2, 1769, in which are six Dublin Castle "Proclamations 
by the Lord Lieutenant and Council of Ireland,** offering rewards for the discovery ' 
and conviction of criminals. The catalogue of crimes stands thus : — 

Unlawful combination and outrage by Dublin artificers ; 

Five cases of felonious maiming, cutting, stabbing, and houghing cattle, by tories, 
robbers, and rapparees of the Popish religion; 

Two threatening letters ; 

One abduction; 

One murder and robbery ; and 

One assault and murder. 

92 hutobt ov kkk 

Lord Townshend was &e Yicero^r (front 17S7 to 1771) appoimted to 
conduct it. The new system may be described in biie^ as consktin^ ia 
caeCEBg out devils 1^ tbe prince of devils. The |4an was, to break down 
the poHtical monopoly of the aristocracy by throrwing Ofpen the trade m 
bribes, places and pensions to a more general competition ; aboliahin^ 
aD intervention of the' Undertakers between the dispensers of patztxiage 
and its recipients ; and Inii^ing the resources of the Castle treasury to 
bear directly on every separate vote. 

** The ajsteixi in part succeeded/' »ayg Plowdcn, " but by means ruinous to tbe 
country. The subalterns were not to be detached from their chiefs but hj similar 
though more powerful means than those by which they had been enlisted undes tfaetr 
banners. The streann of favour became not only multiplied, but enlarged; come* 
quently, the sooxce of remuaeration waa the sooner exhausted* Every Individual naw 
looked up directly to the fountaiu-head, and claimed and received more copious 

This new viceregal representative of the English interest in Ireland 
bad great faith in the efficacy of well-directed bribery. Thus his k)rd- 
ship evinced his zeal for the Protestant cause, by raising the pens[on for 
conforming Catholic priests from 30/. to 40/. ; which the wits of the day 
called Townshend's Golden Drops.^ If the gdden drops failed of their 
intended effect on the Mth of the Catholic priesthood, the disappoint- 
ment was more than compensated by the rapidity and vigour of their 
operation on Protestant parliamentary patriotism. The Viceroy prospered 
0O well in his mission that before the close of his administration he 
could, on almost any question, ensure the votes of two^thiixls of the 
House ; and he left things in smooth and pleasant train for his successor. 
Lord Harcourt. 

Successes of this kind are commonly followed, in the history of nations, 
by a severe and exact reckoning-day. The commencement of the American 
war found Ireland with a bankrupt exchequer,J an imbecile government, 
and an impoverished, distressed, and disaffected people. In the north and 
the metrq)olis, pauperised and mendicant manufacturers, ruined by 
the stoppage of their American trade, disabled by the same cause 
from emigrating, and compelled to stay crowded up at home, a daily 
accumulating mass of discontent and incipient insurgency ; in the soadi 
and west, the provision-trade crushed by embargoes, which, as Arthur 
Young complains, sacrificed and plundered a whole kingdom to enrich 
three or four London contractors ; at Dublin Castk, bribery beginning 
to feel the bottom of a beggared and exhausted treasury, and fofce 

• Plowden's " Historical Review," vol. i., p. 386. 

t This nobleman waa both witty himself, and the cause of wit in others. Endless were 
tbe good things said by him and of him, both by friend and foe. A lively picture of the 
politics of the time is to be found in *' Baratariana," a collection of squibs and pasqui- 
nades published during this administration. 

X The financial policy of that time and its results are tersely stated by Grattan, ia 
bis speech on the expenses of the nation, February 2, 1778 : — 

" A corrupt and jobbing policy has driven us to attempt new taxes, which force the 
condition of trade, and area premium to smugglers; and a new swarm of smugglers 
give birth or pietence to a new swarm of revenue officers, with new burdens on the 
people, and with an army of penal laws ; so that the old deficiency of revenue is brought 
about again by the smuggler who defrauds, and by the job of. government that intercepts 
the revenue, and the practice ofrxmning in debt is thus rendered immortnl/* 


giving way under the necessity of rfupi»ng soldiers over the Atlantic ; 
every branch of revenue £uling; a nulitia law of pressing necessity 
lying ^ by, unexecuted, for want of funds ; the Catholics, too, beginning 
to arise from the death-sleep of eighty years, and seeking from the 
weakness of government what they might vainly have implored till 
doomsday of its justice ; everywhere a fierce and sullen despondency, 
relieved only by a malicious satisfaction at seeing England in difficulty 
and danger, and by hearty sympathy with a cause which all Irishmen 
felt to be, in its principles and tendencies, their cause ; — such was the 
condition of Ireland during .the first years of the contest of Great Britain 
with her revolted North American colonies. National insolvency at home 
and -war abroad had completely paralysed the right arm of the " English 
Interest." The old system of Catholic vassalage to Protestant as- 
cendency, and of Irish vassalage to British ascendency, was fairly worn 
out and come to a stand-still : and already (in 1777) the British minister 
bad begun to m^e up his mind to a modicum of commercial and Catholic 
emancipation, as the only means of saving Ireland's allegiance to the 
British crown. 

As the war went on, matters became daily more critical. The Ame- 
Ticaa capture of a British army (October, 1777) was the signal for 
France, and afterwards for Spaia and Holland, to recognise and aid the 
young Transatlantic republic. The privateers of the allies swept the 
seas; a French invasion of Ireland was menaced and expected, and 
Ireland had no troops to repel invasion; and in the month of April, 
1778, the Manner privateer. Captain Patii. Jones, made a flying visit 
to the harbour of Belfast. The towns-folk of Belfast, through their chief 
Miagistrate, applied to Dublin Castle for protection ; and Dublin Castle 
laoade answer, by the mouth of one Mr. Richard Heron, a very worthy but 
not over-bright law-agent and land-steward, whom fortune had cruelly 
promoted to be Lord Lieutenant's Secretary, thai^ it had no protection to 
^jfws. The following is a curiosity worth preserving.* Little did good 
dull Mr. Richard Heron, who could not so much as write a business - 
letter in English, dream that his bad grammar would ever come to be 
good history :— * 

"Dublin Castle, Aug. I4th, 1778. 

*' Sir, — ^My Lord Lieutenant having received information that there is reason to 
apprehend three or four privateers, in company, may in a few days make attempts on 
the northern coasts of this kingdom — by his Excellency's commands I give you the 
«arliest account thereof, in order that there may be a careful watch, and immediate 
intelligence given to the inhabitants of Belfast, in case any party from such ships should 
attempt to land. 

'*The greatest. part of the troops being encamped near Clonmell and Kinsale, his 
excellency eaimot at present send no further military force to Belfast, than a troop or 
two of horse, or part of a company of invalids; and his Excellency desires you will 
acquaint me, by express, whether a troop or two of horse may be properly accommodated 
in Belfast, so long as it may be proper to continue them in that town, in addition to tho 
other two troops now there. 

*' I have the honour to be, &c., 

" Richard Heron." 

This is a fit ending of one chapter of Irish history, as we shall find it 
to be the worthy beginning of another. A government which did not re- 

* We find it in Madden'a «* United Irishmen," voL ii., p. 290. 



cognise the existence of five-sixths of its suhjects, and had no protection to 
give to the remaining one-sixth — ^it was time, hy all the laws of heaven and 
earth, that men saw the last of this. 






Now is our time, said Lord Carhampton to Dr. Jebb, on hearing of the 
answer of Dublin Castle to Belfast. Truly, it was their time ; and the 
time found men to do its work. The Irish government had libdicated its 
functions, and forfeited its trust ; had refused to the people that protection, 
the power and the will to give which are the elementarjr conditions of all 
government whatever — and the Irish people must protect and help them- 
selves. The Irish people, thus tried, were not found wanting. 

Our introductory retrospect of the history of Ireland has now brought us 
to the epoch of the Volunteer Institution — that brightest spot in the 
whole of the Irish annals, which shows all the more brightly in contrast 
with the gloom that precedes it, and the darker horrors that follow — ^that 
time when " the whole faculty of the nation was braced up to the act of 
her own deliverance,"* and achieved her deliverance in the shape of a brief 
and illusory independence ; that independence to be followed by a worse 
slavery than before — slavery to the corrupt and tyrannical domestic legis- 
lature which popular effort had emancipated from foreign control, by years 
of unsuccessfiil agitation and defeated rebellion, and ultimately by the 
extinction of her separate nationality in a legislative imion with Great 

In the year 1778 the old system of Anglo-Irish government had fairly 
worn itself out. The rkgime of corruption and force had expended the 
uttermost farthing of its resources, and had nothing to go on with ; and 
the whole thing collapsed and came down— died of sheer inanition. On 
the 30th of April, in that year, the Lord Lieutenant (Buckingham) writes 
to Lord North as doleful and piteous an epistle as ever insolvent debtor 
indited from a sponging-house to a wealthy but penurious relative, inform- 
ing him, *' with great concern," of the " miserable state of his Majesty's 
treasury;" detailing the utter failure of every one of his financial expe- 
dients, tie stoppage of all treasury payments except for indispensable 
military uses, and the entire exhaustion of a banker's loan of 20,000/. ; and 
warning the minister, that if a considerable supply were not sent out 
without loss of time, " it cannot be said how fatal the consequence may 

* Grattan. 


be."* The considerable supply did not arrive, Lord North having more' 
than enough work of his own in hand, in crushing rebellious colonies over 
the Atlantic ; and after two or three further applications, each rising above 
the other in urgency, the Viceroy writes by express, on the 17th of May — 

" I have found further disappointments in respect to money; the bankers to whom I 
had made application for a further loan of 20,000/. having this morning returned an 
answer, that the distresses of the public with regard to money are so uncommonly great^ 
that it is not in their power, though very much in their inclination, to give that assist- 
ance to government that they would do at another time. I am therefore reduced to the 
necessity of stopping the movement of the troops until further orders. ♦ * * Unless 
a supply can be obtained from England, it will be absolutely impossible to carry forward 
those preparations which are absolutely necessary for the defence of Ireland in case of 
any attack."t 

The supplies not coming, or not coming at such time and in such 
quantities as to render the absolutely necessary preparations in any way 
possible, Ireland was thrown on her own resources; and never, in all 
history, did a people develope richer resources on the call of a great 
occasion. The national distress was deep, but the national heart rose 
superior to it all. To the answer which Dublin Castle sent to the people's 
demand for protection, the people's rejoinder was a volttnteeb abmt. 
Already had some detached volunteer corps been formed in different parts 
of the country, by public-spirited individuals, in anticipation of local exi- 
gencies ; but with the summer of 1778, the arming became general and 
systematic. The metropolis, the counties, the large towns of the north — 
each poured forth their hosts of armed citizens, self-paid and self-commis- 
sioned ; even the poor outcast Catholic remembered the country which had 
forgotten him, and was ready to shed his heart's blood for a constitution 
which had not deigned to recognise his existence. The enthusiasm of 
nationality brought out the many, and necessity and fashion enUsted the 
few who might else have stood aloof ; and, in a few months, Ireland had 
an army of citizen-soldiers, to the number of forty thousand and more, well 
appointed, well disciplined, and well officered, with the flower of the demo- 
cracy in its ranks, and the heads of the aristocracy for its commanders-in- 
chief. The government was astounded. Dublin Castle seems to have 
been afraid, hke the Whigs after the Reform Bill, that it was too strong. 
The notion of an army not commissioned and officered by the crownj was 
• altogether new. The whole thing was decidedly unconstitutional — ^without 
a precedent in the law books. The government was now between two 
fires ; the French on one side, and the volunteers on the other— with an 
empty exchequer and a paralysed executive in the middle.^ It could not 
possibly do without the volunteers, and yet it did not very well know what 
to do with them. This embarrassment is very amusingly evinced in the 
correspondence which from time to time passed on the subject, between 
Dublin and St. James's. On the 24th of May, 1779, the Lord Lieutenant 
writes to Lord Weymouth, in reference to " this deHcate subject," as he 
calls it — 

** Discouragement has been given on my part, as far as might be without offence, at a crisis 

* " Memoirs of the Life and Times of the Right Honourable Henry Grattan," vol. i., 
p. 321. 

t " life of Grattan," vol. i., p. 327. 

J The whole constitution of the volunteer army was republican. The privates elected 
the oiBcers, and cashiered them, on occasion, for incapacity or misconduct. 

9S MisTomj or 

when the arm and good will of CTery iDdiyiduaL might have been vmated for (he defence 
of the sUte."* 

He alfio speaks with efrident uneasiness of the recent formation of addi- 
tional companies : — 

" It has been asserted that this arises from the insinuations wlxich are dailj circulated 
m the public prints, that the idea of their numbers may conduce to the attainment of 
political advantages to their country," 

*The minister fully participates in the apprehensions of the Viceroy, and 
\rrites back (June 7) that this idea of the '' attainment of political adyan- 
tages to their country"^ must be considered as alarming; and he 
recommends — 

''The utmost attention to any addition that may be made to the numbers of the com- 
panies already raised, and that they be dzscouillged Ay aU proper and gentle means/* 

To. which the Lord Lieutenant rejoins : — 

" With respect to the independent corps, nothing has been omitted which, either in 
my judgment or in those of my advisers, could with propriety and discretion be enforced, 
to prevent their rise and increase. * ♦ * Upon the whole consideration of this 
kingdom, the secondary measure of temporising is, in my opinion^ called for ; and whatever 
may be the sentiment of government respecting the independent troops, most studiously 
to avoid giving them any reason to believe that they are either feared or suspected. Expense* 
fatigue, avocation from business, and subordination, will, by rendering their situaUoa 
irksome, thin their ranks, and a peace will soon put a period to their existence/'f 

That is, " upon the whole considerati<m of the kingdom," government 
would do nothing, but hope for the best, and trust to the chapter erf" acci* 
dents, and " perhaps the fire might go out of itself." 

Meanwhile the volunteer army went on increasing in numbers, in efficiency, 
in military organization, and in distinctness and resoluteness of purpose. 
The incorporation of detached companies and regiments into regular pro- 
vincial armies, with close and constant intercommunication, gave them the 
strength which is in union: the acceptance, by such noblemen as the 
Duke of Leinster and Lord Charlemont, of the post of commander-in-chief 
of these provincial armies, raised their self-confidence and self-respect; 
repeated votes of thanks from parliament gave them the prestige of a quctsi 
legality ; then* daily parading and exercising as soldiers, ai^d their daily 
debating as citizens, gradually perfected their efficiency and zeal in both 
capacities. They had taken and made good their standing as an established 

That volunteer era was a blessed time for Ireland. Despite all her accu- 
mulated miseries and wrongs, she was hopeful, happy, and tranquil. As 
Hardy says, J " Ireland, in counting the years of hier thraldom, might 
Jeave out those of the volunteer institution." This writer thus describes 
the effects of volunteerism on national morals and manners : — 

" Generosity, frankness, and, above all, a disposition in Irishmen to regard each other 
vith looks of kindness, were then most apparent. It was impossible to contemplate and 
enjoy the cheerful dawn of unsuspicious intercourse which then diffused its reviving 
light oyer this island without an abhorrence of that debasing policy which, when the 

♦ « Life of Grattan," vol. i., p. 347. 

f Ibid., voL i., p. 3M^ 

4; u Li£» of the £acl of Chadfliaont,'* yoL i., p. 383^ 

sword wan aiiealiicd^ and the stBetate-book tlambcfed, widlBnlgr filled die pine of botib» 
tamed aside the national character from ha natural eeuEM, coimtaraeted its best pxo- 
^Bsitiss^ ftod^ nader t&a denomination ei reli^o, fieseely epposed itself to the celes- 
tial precept of Clizutianity — 'Love one another.' llie content^ the satis&ction. 
that sa^ in erery face, and, I may add, thfr moral impvovement that formed one of the 
puesteourees of Uiat satisfaction, cannot be efiaeed from tiie memory. Let those who 
sneer at the Tohmteer institution, point out the days, not merely in the Iri^, but any: 
history, when decorons w^nnaiw kept more even pace with the best charities of lifs, 
when crime found less countenance, and law more reverence. This stats of affiars 
lasted, it is true, but a short period. It has passed away like a dream." * * 

"If the kingdom was menaeed from abroad, it was at home in a state of unexampled 
eecniity. Private property, private peace, were everywhere, watched over by the vokuw 
teers with a filial and pious eare. « « * 

" Though the pursuits of a eamp are necessarily incompatible, for the moment, with 
literary studies, the volunteer institution, so far from beini; formidable to such studies, 
eventually contributed to their extension. Almost every man of a liberal education 
throughout Ireland was now, occasionally at least, in the iield, and many gentlemen of 
litemiy acquirements devoted no inconsiderable portion of their time to the camp, and 
sueh military knowledge as in the situation they could obtain. The different ranks of 
soeiety became more mingled. Those who were uninformed frequently, often daily, 
met those wha were not so. Liberal intercourse took place, and many were ashamed of 
continuing ignorant. Reading became, though slowly, a fashion ; and what was origi- 
nally fashion gradually chanjKed into a favoured and pleasing habit. More Books were 
honghtj and continued to be so, after the volufUeer institution iMe» formed, tfum ever before in 

The original object of this volunteer institution was already accom- 

plisbed by the very act of its fonnation — ^the menaced French invasion was 

effectiially prevented. The citizen-soldiers soon found other work to do, 

in the redress of poUtical wrongs and the attainment of political rights. We 

have spoken of the national distress of the early years of the American 

war. In 1778 and 1779 this distress had reached a point beyond which 

endurance was no longer possible. The complaints of the restricted, 

embargoed, and pauperised manufacturers of Ireland at length found their 

way to England ; were brou^t before parliament by the Whig Opposition 

(May 1779), and would probably have had attention and relief at the hands 

of the good-natured, well-meaning, expediency statesman then at the head 

of afikirs (Lord North), but that the manufecturing towns of England and 

Scotland took alarm at the first signs of an abatement of the monopoly 

which law and the embargoes gave them, and sent up petition on petition, 

predicting the ruin of their cotton trade and threatenii^ something Hke 

rebellion, if the hands of Irish industry were untied. The Ibuder and neaier 

agitation carried the day. The minister adjourned his good intentions til! 

the next session, on the plea of insufficient information and apprehension 

of manufacturing insurgency ; and, except some trumpery immeaning gene- 

Talities in the way of ** resolutions," nothing 'Was cfone — ^Ireland was left 

to starve on. 

The prorogation of the British parliament in the summer of 1779, with- 
out redress of Ireland's commercial grievances, gave a new stimulus and a 
more definite direction to popular eflfort. The voltmteers grew fast in 
numbers and in zeal, and the people had recourse to the policy which 
Dean Swift had recommended half a century before — of retaliating exclu- 
sion with exclusicm, and monopoly with monopoly. The citizens of DubUn 
had, a few weeks before (26th of April), met at the Tholsel, and agreed to 
the following resolutions :— 

" That the unjuftt, illiberal, and impoUtia oppositiAa given hj manj self-interested 


people in Great Britain to the proposed encouragement of the trade and commerce of 
this kingdom, originated in avarice and ingratitude. 

" TJiat w« will not, directly or indirectly, inytort or ute any goodt or wares, the produce or 
manufacture of Great Britain, which can be produced or manufactured in this king^ 
dom, till an enlightened policy, founded on principles of justice, shall appear to actuate 
the inhabitants of certain manufacturing towns of Great Britain which have taken so 
active a part in opposing the regulations proposed in favour of the trade of Ireland, and 
till they appear to entertain sentiments of respect and affection for their fellow-subjects 
of this kingdom." 

These non-importation resolutions were adopted all over the country, and 
stringently enforced, to the infinite alarm and perplexity of goTemment, 
which had never before received half so significant a hint on the subject of 
"justice to Ireland." Three days after this Tholsel meeting, the Lord 
Lieutenant writes to inform Lord Weymouth of the untoward aspect of 
things, adding — 

" The Chancellor, Prime Sergeant, and Attorney-General are unanimously of opinion 
that any notice which government could possibly take, either by causing an information 
to be filed, or by inducing the privy council to issue a proclamation, expressing that 
full disapprobation of these measures which they merit, would have no other effect than 
making this disagreeable disposition worse"* 

A month later, the Viceroy has a still more disagreeable communication 
to make : — 

"For some days past, the names of the traders, who appear from the printed returns 
of the custom-house to have imported any English goods, have heen printed in the Dublin 
newspapers. This is probably calculated for the abominable practice of drawing the in- 
dignation of the mob upon indLviduals."t 

The increased energy and density of the pressure from without was ap- 
parent on the opening of the next session of the Irish legislature. On the 
12th of October, 1779, the Lord Lieutenant met parliament with a speech 
made up of the usual flummery common-places of regal and viceregal elo- 
quence. But not in common-places was he answered. For our account 
of what was said and done on this occasion we are indebted to the graphic 
and vigorous narrative of an eye and ear witness. Sir Jonah BarringtonJ :— 

" In the Commons the usual echo and adulatory address was moved by Sir Robert 
Deane, a person completely devoted to the views of government. A pause succeeded, 
and an unusual communication was perceivable between several members on the govern- 
ment and the opposition sides of the house. A decided resistance to the usual qualified 
address now became certain. The secretary, moving irresolutely from place to place, • 
was seen endeavouring to collect the individual opinions of the members, and the law 
officers of the crown evinced a diffidence never before observable in their deportment ; 
throughout the whole house a new sense of expectation and anxiety was evident, 

" At length Mr. Henry Grattan arose, with a somewhat more than usual solemnity. 
He seemed labouring with his own thoughts, and preparing his mind for a more than 
ordinary exertion. The address and the language of this extraordinary man were per- 
fectly original. From his first essay in parliament a strong sensation had been excited 
by the point and eccentricity of his powerful eloquence. His action, his tone, his elocu- 
tion in public speaking, bore no resemblance to that of any other person The flights 
of genius, the arrangements of composition, and the solid strength of connected reason- 
ing were singularly blended in his fiery yet deliberative language. He thought in 
logic and he spoke in antithesis ; his irony and his satire, rapid and epigrammatic, bore 
down all opposition, and left him no rival in the broad field of eloquent invective. His 

* "Life of Grattan," vol. i., p. 346. 

t Ibid., p. 353. 

J "Historic Memoirs of Ireland," vol. i., p. 127 et teq. 


ungraceful action,' however, and the hesitating tardiness of his first sentences, con- 
veyed no favourable impression to those who listened only to his exordium ; but the 
progress of his brilliant and manly eloquence soon absorbed every idea but that of admi- 
ration at the overpowering extent of his intellectual faculties. This was Mr. Henry 
Grattan of 1779. • * ♦ 

. ** After an oration replete with the most luminous reasoning, the severest censure, 
pathetic and irresistible eloquence, Mr. Grattan moved an amendment to the addresf, 
viz : — * That we beseech your Majesty to believe that it is with the utmost reluctance we 
are constrained to approach you on the present occasion : but the constant drain to sup- 
ply absentees, and the unfortunate prohUtitwn of our trade, have caused such calamity that 
the natural support of our country has decayed, and our manufacturers are dying for 
want ; famine stalks hand-in-hand with hopeless wretchedness, and the only means left 
to support the expiring trade of this miserable part of your Majesty's dominions, is to 
open a free export trade, and let your Irish subjects enjoy their natural birthright.' 

" His arguments had been so conclusive, his positions so self-evident, his language so 
vigorous and determined, his predictions so alarming, and the impression which those 
combined qualities made upon the house was so deep and so extensive^ that the sup- 
porters of government, paralysed and passive, seemed almost ready to resign the victory 
before they had even attempted a resistance. ♦ * ♦ 

*' The confusion which now appeared on the treasury bench was very remarkable, 
because very unusual. The secretary (Sir Richard Heron), for the first time, showed a 
painful mistrust in the steadiness of his followers. He perceived that the spirit of the 
house was rising into a storm which all the influence of his office would not be able to 
allay. Direct opposition would be injudicious, if not fatal ; palpable evasion would be 
altogether impracticable, the temporising system was almost worn out, and procrastina- 
tion seemed to yield no better prospect of a favourable issue. The officers of the 
government sat sullenly on their benches, awaiting their customary cue from the lips of 
the minister, but he was too skilful to commit himself to a labyrinth from whence return 
was so difficult and precariouc; and all was silent." 

Silence was at last broken by Sir Henry Cavendish, in a hesitating and 
deprecatory opposition to the amendment : and the debate proceeded with 
evident timidity and weakness on the part of the government, and rising 
energy on the opposition side, when a quite unexpected turn was given to 
the course of things by an event of wonderfully rare occurrence in Irish 
parliamentary hii^tory : — 

<* Mr. Hussey Burgh * (the Prime Sergeant) at length rose from the treasury bench, 
with that proud dignity so congenial to his character, and declared that he never would 
support any government in fraudulently concealing from the King the rights of his people ; 
that the high office which he possessed could hold no competition with Ms principles 
and his conscience ; and that he should consider the relinquishment of his gown only as 
a just sacrifice upon the altar of his country ; that strong statement, rather than pathetic 
.supplication, was adapted to the crisis ; and he proposed to Mr. Grattan to substitute 
for his amendment the following words — * That it is not bt tempobary expedients, 


This settled the question. Further resistance was not to be thought of. 
The character, talents, eloquence, and official standing of the Prime Ser- 
jeant bore down all opposition, and won votes even from the Viceroy's 
family connexions. Not a single negative could the minister procure, and 
Mr. Burgh's amendment passed unanimously. On the result being 
known, the drums beat to arms ; the volunteer regiments assembled from 
every part of the metropolis, and accompanied their representatives to the 
CasUe, in solemn procession, to make the *' strong statement" stronger 

* This was the man who, a few weeks later, electrified the house and country with— 
** England has sown A^r laws dragon*s tsethf and they have sprung up armed men" 


Btill, and quicken the viceregal deHberations wifii the pointed argument c^ 
fixed bayonets. 

A Tote of thanks to the volunteers, and a short money-hill (for six 
months only) were further symptoms of a changed tone of parltamentary 
feeling, at the commoicement of this session of 1779 ; and the represen- 
tadves had no ground for complaining of lack of support from their con- 
stituents. The virtues and patriotic resolutions of the legislaCure might 
count on the hest services of a zealous popiilar and military executive;. 
The Dublia artillery ccapfi of volunteers appeared on paxade with their 
cannon labelled " Free trade, ob eme "* 

The two powers of Great Britain and Ireland were now fairly committed. 
The struggle went on, for a while, with the usual characteristics of «uch 
conflicts. One partial and illusory concession offered afber another — the 
offer in every instance coming too late to be effectual, even for a momen- 
tary conciliation. Great Britain was not yet sufficient^ frightened to be 
quite in earnest, having at present, lost onlt/ one army in America. But 
the -minister had been so far enlightened by the teacher which teaches 
fools, as to have gradually acquired the conviction that sometlmt^ mtut he 
done: and accordingly, he met the British parHamentin November, 1779, 
with a resolution in his hands — 

*< Tliat it is now expediexit to xefwid all acts prohibiting tbe exportation from Ireland 
of all woollen manufoctuBes whstiasoever, or of mixed wool and cotton, or of glass 

Recent events had so far quickened legislative and ministerial activity^ 
and imparted so liberal an aUowanoe of that ^ information," which had beeu 
deficient earlier in the year, that bitis founded on this resolution received 
the royal assent in little more than three weeks. 

But it was too late iu tiie day for an ** expedient" free trade. What 
expediency gave, expediency might take away ; and free trade itself lost 
half its worth, and all its security, by coming as a boon from a foreign 
legislature. Ireland would not have the expedient free trade. A new 
sort of question began to fitir men's minds — rather, an old questicm turned 
up agsdn, for instant settiement. What is this British leffisheture ? Who 
gave it — ^a set of people whom none of us ever saw, talking at West- 
minsters-power to open and shut our ports, to bind and loose our industry ? 
The citizen- soldiers and soldier-citiaens were soon ready witii their answer ; 
which answer was a plain downright no— expressed in every mood of 
logic and every figure of rhetoric, by constitutional lawyer's quHl, and 
peaceful agitation of the atmosphere with good gunpowder on volunteer 
field-days. The doctrine of Molyneux sprang from the ashes of the 
English hangman's honfire, and became the faith of all Ireland ; the ^' case 

* The following fragment of a song of the day has its Talufi for the historian :-— 
" Was she not a fool, 
When she tock off the wool, 
Td leave us so much of 

The leather, the leather ? 
It ne'er entered her pate, 
That a sheep's-skin well beat 
Would draw a whole nation 
Together, together.*' 
This was ai&TOiitite pataktic aong and yolimteer maob. 


of Ireland*8 being bound by acts of parliainent in England/' was not only 
■* stated," but solved. ** An expedient free trade," says a volunteer ma;for 
(Francis Dobbs), ^* and the fallacy of it, was soon understood ; the plain and 
simple doctrine that we could not be free, if any power on earth could make 
laws to bind us, save ouk King, Lords and Commons, quickly prevailed ; 
this became the sentiment of almost every man." From this time. Irish- 
men left their free trade to shift for itself, while they looked after their 
freedom. The non-importation agreement waa exchanged for a imw- 
dbedience agreement : — ^" Resolved, that we will not obet any other 
laws than those enacted by the J^ng, Lords^ and Commons or Ibeland," 
came now to be the regular stereotyped form, which, at all popular and 
Tolonteer gatherings, expressed the ^ sense of the meeting." 

The new popular faith was not long without a voice in the le^slatuire* 
On the 19th of April, 1780, Grattan prologued the last act of the revolu- 
tionary drama, by movipg the House of Commons, in one of his greatest 
speeches, '' That no power on earth, save the Emg^ JJorde, and Com- 
mons of Ireland, has a right to make lares for Ireland'' The motiiai 
was lost — ^for a time. 

Meanwhile, the people looked not at aH to representatives who did not 
represent them, but orJy and altogether to themselves. The parliamentary 
part of the agitation was allowed to subside, while the pressure from with- 
out was getting ready. The volunteers went on growing in nmnbers, in spirit, 
in military efficiency and political daring and decision — ^the whole moral and 
physical force of Ireland was collecting and concentrating itself for one 
grand crowning effort.- All things helped the men who helped themselves. 
New rumours of French invasion stimulated their exertions, wirmed their 
zeal, and made them more than ever necessary to the government ; and 
with the fogs of November, 1781, came the news that a second British 
army had surrendered to the rebellious colonists. There was now no need 
of longer waiting. On the 28th of December, the officers and delegates of 
the southern battalion of the First Ulster Regiment met at Armagh, to 
consider the state of the nation, when it was 

Unanimously Resolvbb — ** That with the utmost concern we behold the little at- 
tention paid to the constitutional rights of this kingdom, by the majority of those whose 
duty it is to establish and preserve the same. 

** That, to avert the impending danger from the nation, and to restore the constitu* 
tion to its original purity, the most vigorous and effectual methods must be pursued to root out 
corruption and court injluencefrom the legislative body, 

"That, to open a path towards the attaining of this desirable point, it is absolutely 
lequisite that a meeting be held in the most central town of the province of Ulster, 
which we conceive to be Dungannon, to which said meeting every velunteer association 
of the said province is most earnestly requested to send delegates, then and there to de- 
liberate on the present alarming situation of public affairs, and to detennine on and 
j^blish to fbeir country what may be the result of the said meeting. 

"That, as many real and lasting advantages may arise to this kingdom from said in- 
tended meeting being held before the present session of parliament is much farther advatwed, 
Friday, the 15th day of February next, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, is hereby ap- 
pointed for said meeting at Dungannon, as aforesaid. 

" That, as at said meeting it is highly probable the idea of forming brigades ynSL be 
agitated and considered, llie several -covps of volunteers who send delegates to said meeJb- 
UBg are requested to vest in them a power to asaooiate with some one of such brigades 
iLs may be then farmed." 

The meeting which followed was one of the greatest events in the history 
of Ireland. The Sijpwaakct of iUm ikasmagh mntfeslD struck terror into 


the heart of Duhlin Castle, and eTerything was done that could be done, in 
a quiet way, to prevent the meeting, and sow disunion and alarm among its 
promoters — ^but in Tain. The men that had the conduct of the people's 
cause were of the " old solemn league and covenant" sort— difficult to 
cajole, and impossible to frighten. 

<< Tlie northern counties of Ireland, though not more spirited, are certainly more 
regular and more intelligent than the other proTinces ; they took the lead in this cele- 
biated meeting. There are in these counties comparatively but few Roman Catholics, 
and still fewer of the strictly Protestant religion. The population of Ulster is almost 
imiversally Dissenters — a people materially differing in character from the aboriginal 
inhabitants ; particularly sharp-witted, fond of reform, and not hostUe to equality; ever 
examining the constitution by its theory, and seeking a recurrence to original princi- 
ples ; prone to intolerance, without being absolutely intolerants, and disposed to re- 
publicanism, without being absolutely Republicans. Of Scottish origin, they partake 
of many of the peculiarities of that hardy people ; penetrating, harsh-minded, perse- 
vering, selfish, frugal, by their industry they acquire individual, and by individual, 
political independence. As brave, though less impetuous than the western and southern 
Irish, they are more invariably formidable ; deep and deliberate in their designs, they 
are steady and firm in their execution of them ; less slaves to their passions than to their 
interest, their habits are generally temperate, their address quaint, their dialect harsh 
and disagreeable, their persons hardy and vigorous. With these qualities, the northern 
Irish convoked delegates from twenty-five thousand soldiers, to collect the sentiments of 
the Irish people."* 

The 15th day of February, 1782, witnessed what Grattan called a 
*' great original transaction," which had no precedent, and needed none. 
Two hundred armed and equipped delegates, the representatives of a him- 
dred and forty-three corps of Ulster volunteers— men the very first in cha- 
racter and abilities, and (many of them) in rank and fortune, that Ireland 
had to show ; men sedate and mse as brave, all filled with one spirit and 
united in one will — ^marched, two and two, into the church of Dungannon, 
not with " enthusiastic cheering" and " tremendous applause," but in a far 
more tremendous silence ; and then and there, after a calm, decorous, and 
deliberative discussion — 

Unanimouslt Resolved — " That a claim of any body of men, other than the King, 
Lords, and Commons of Ireland, to make laws to bind ^is kingdom, is unconstitutional^ 
illegal, and a gbievamcb. 

" That the power exercised by the privy councils of both kingdoms, under the pre- 
tence of the law of Poyning's, is unconstitutional and a gbievancb. 

" That the ports of this country are, by right, open to all foreign countries not at war 
with the King, and that any burdens thereupon, or obstruction thereto, save only by the 
parliament of Ireland, are unconstitutional^ iUegal, and a grievance." 

They also expressed their ** satisfaction as men, as Irishmen, as Chris- 
tians, and as Protestants," at a certain recent relaxation of the Catholic 
penal code, as a '' measure fraught with the happiest consequence to the 
union and prosperity of the inhabitants of Ireland ;" and they finished with 
appointing a committee of their body to sit in DubHn, and communicate with 
the volunteer associations of the other provinces of Ireland. 

This was the famous DiTNeANNON Coitvention. Its effect was elec- 
tric. Meetings were called in every county, city, town, and village in Ire- 
land, and the Dungannon resolutions were echoed fi:om east, west, north, 
and south. In these Dimgannon resolutions the whole moral and physical 
force of Ireland was united, with volition one and indivisible. 

* Btnington'fl <' Historic Memoix8>" yoLi, p. 23$. 


It was now time not only that " something," but that; everything should 
be done, if England did not mean to lose Ireland altogether, by. a three- 
days', or a three-hours' revolution. In less than six weeks from the 
Dungannon Convention, the North ministry went out, the Whigs came in, 
imder the Marquis of Rockingham and Mr. Fox, — and the 1 4th of April 
saw the entry into Dublin of a Whig Lord Lieutenant,, the Duke of 
Portland, as King's Messenger of justice to Ireland. The British parlia- 
ment had received, &ve days before, a royal message to the following 
effect : — 

" George R. 

" His Majesty, being concerned to find that discontents and jealousies are prevailing 
among his loyal subjects in Ireland, upon matters of great weight and importance, 
earnestly recommend!^ to this house to take the same into their most serious considera- 
tion, in order to such Ajinal adjustment as may give mutual satisfaction to both kingdoms." 

What this final adjustment was to be, the new Whig ministry, with the 
usual easy, moderate well-me^ngness of their party, did not as yet exactly 
know. Only they had " no other wish'* than what might be for the "real 
advantage of both countries." It curiously shows how little, at that time 
of day, British statesmen thought of Ireland, or troubled their heads about 
Irish policy, that on the 4th of this month of April, Mr. Fox could write 
to Lord Charlemont — 

" With regard to the particular points between the two countries^ lam really not yet 
master of them sufficiently to discuss them; but I can say in general, that the new ministry 
h»re no other wish than to settle them in the way that may be most for the real advan- 
tage of both countiies, whose interests cannot be distinct."* 

The truth is, these excellent, upright, and thoroughly well-intentioned 
statesmen knew, of the condition and temper of Ireland, precisely nothing. 
They begged hard for an adjournment of the Irish parliament, to give them 
time to learn. The good Marquis of Rockingham, writing to his old and 
esteemed friend the good Earl of Charlemont— 

" Should hope that an adjournment of the House of Commons in Ireland, for a fort- 
night, or three weeks, in order to give the Duke of Portland the opportunity of inquiring 
into the opinions of your lordship and of the gentlemen of the first weight and conse- 
quence, will be readily assented to."t 

But the ready assent was not forthcoming. Not ready assent, but 
categorical imperative demand, was the temper of the time. No adjourn- 
ment could they get, for one week, or one day ; instant concession in full of 
all demands, or mstant revolution — ^they had no other alternative. Mr. 
Grattan had given notice of an immediate motion for a Declaration of 
Rights; had got a call of the House for the 16th of April, ordering all the 
members to attend, " as they tendered the rights of the Irish Parliament," 
and neither Mr. Grattan nor the House of Commons, least of all the 
armed Irish people at their back — ^had any notion of waiting while the 
Duke of Portland inquired into the " opinions of gentlemen of the first 
weight and consequence." 

The sixteenth day of April arrived, and found all Ireland — ^her govern- 
ment excepted — ^united as one man. From early morning, Publin streets 

* Hardy's " Life of the Earl of Charlemont," vol. ii., p. 13. 
t Ibid., p. 6, 




weie lined with volunteer troops under arms, and thronged with peaceful, 
tranquil myriads — ^tranquil with resolute, compressed volition — who let 
their very enemies pass through their ranks to vote away their liberties, 
without a rude or angry word. What the government would do, no living 
man knew — ^government itself knew not. Grattan had been backwards 
and forwards at the Castle again and again during the previous forty-ei^t 
hours, with the draft of his Declaration of Bights, which, it seems, was 
somewhat too strong in substance and too peremptory in form for his 
Grace the Viceroy's liking. The duke could not say he would support it, 
and would not say he would oppose it ; he could only recommend modeia* 
. tion, and suggest modification, and put a good face on the matter, and hope 
for the best. 

Four o'clock came — a* full house, a thronged auditory of rank and 
beauty, palpitating through every heart's fibre with anxious, uncertain 
wonderment what the hours would bring. 

" For a short time," says Sir Jonah Bamngton,* " a profound silence ensued. It was 
expected that Mr. Grattan would immediately rise — ^when the wisdom and discretion of 
the government gave a turn to the proceedings. Mr. Hely Hutchinson rose. He said 
that his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant had ordered him to deliver a message from the 
King, importing that his Majesty, 'being concerned to find that discontents and jea- 
lousies were prevailing among his loyal subjects of Ireland upon matters of great weight 
and importance, recommended to the House to take the same into their most serious con- 
sideration, in order to effect such a final adjustment as might give satisfaction to both 
kingdoms.' And Mr. Hutchinson accompanied this message with a statement of his own 
views on the subjeot, and his determination to support a declaration of Irish rights and 
constitutional independenee. * * * Mr. Hutchinson, however, observed in his speech, 
that he was not officially authorised to say moie than simply to deliver the message. 
He was therefore silent as to all details, and pledged the government to none ; the par- 
liament would act upon the message as to themselves might seem advisable.' * * * 

" Notwithstanding this official communication, the government members were still 
greatly perplexed how to act, Mr. Grattan's intended declaration of independence was 
too strong, decisive and prompt, to be relished as the measure of any government. It 
could neither be wholly resisted nor generally approved of by the Viceroy. And it is 
generally believed t/uit the members of the government went to parliament tJiat day without 
any decided plan or system, but determined to regulate their own individual conduct hy 
the circumstances which might occur. 

"A solemn pause ensued. Mr. Grattan remained silent; when Mr. George Ponsonby 
rose, and, after eulogismg the King, the British ministry, and the Irish government, 
simply proposed an humble address in reply, * thanking the King fer his goodness and 
condescension, and assuring his Majesty that his faithful Commons would immediately 
proceed upon the great objects he had recommended to their consideration.' " 

But no consideration whatever was necessary ; the " great objects '* had 
been considered and determined two months before. Nothing was now 
needed — ^nothing was now possible — ^but to transfer the Dungannon Reso- 
lutions to the Commons* Journals. 

At length Mr, Grattan arose, and spoke a speech worthy of Ireland and 
of himself — a speech rising, in its assured victoriousness of tone, to the 
very top of the high occasion, and concluded mth moving an address to tho 
Crown — 

** To assure his Majesty that his suhfects of Ireland are ▲ free people, and that there is 
no body of men competent to make laws to bind this nation, except the King, Lords, akd 
Commons of Ireland ; nor any parliament which hath any authority or power of any sort 
whatsoever in this country, save only the parliament of Ireland." 

♦ ** Historic Memoirs,*' vol/i., p. 299 etjeq^ 


The effect was instantaneous and decisive. When the house had re- 
covered its self-possession, another pause ensued, but not a pause of 
doubt— for doubt there was none left ; the battle was over, and the victory 
won. Nothing remained to be known, except in what manner and form, 
and though what organ the government would give in its adhesion to the 
popular will. 

Mr. George Ponsonby was the member to whom this task was delegated. 
He announced the Viceroy's acquiescence, with the best grace that circum- 
stances allowed ; and, after a few words more of hearty congratulation from 
some members, and vigorous recantation of former votes from others— 

" All further debate ceased. The Speaker put the question on Mr. Grattan's amend- 
ment, a unanimous ' Atb ' burst from every quarter of the house. He repeated the 
question— rthe applause was redoubled ; a moment of tumultuous exultation followed, 
and, after centuries of oppression, Ireland at length declared herself am imdspbndbnt 


On the 4th of May, parUament adjourned for three weeks, to await the 
answer of the British ministry and legislature. Ireland remained the while, 
high of heart and hope, yet sedate and watchftil. Everything had been 
promised, but^every thingwas still to be performed. The Volunteers were 
at their post, more active and vigilant than ever ; exercising a^d review- 
ing went on daily, as vigorously as though a French fleet were cruising 
in the Channel ; the artillery corps kept their powder dry and tried their 
guns every morning in the Phcenix Park ; camp equipage was got ready for 
service at an hour's notice ; and the rising sun of the 27th of May (to which 
day the parliament stood adjourned) saw the whole volunteer force of the 
metropolis under arms — either to receive the news of Great Britain's un- 
qualified surrender, or else to take the field without more words. Happily 
for Great Britain, the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to meet parlia- 
ment that afternoon, with expressions of his " utmost satisfaction" at being 
enabled to acquaint them that, " by the magnanimity of the King, and the 
wisdom of the parliament of Great Btitain, immediate attention had been 
paid to their representation, and that the British legislature had concurred 
in a resolution to remove the causes of t^eir discontents and jealousies, and 
were xmited in a desire to gratify every wish expressed in their late ad- 
dresses to the throne ;" and that " these benevolent intentions of his Ma- 
jesty, and the willingness of his parliament of Great Britain to second his 
gracious purposes, were unaccompanied by any stipulation or condition 
whatever" * 

Ten days previously, the two houses of the British parliament had con- 
curred, with but one solitary exception to their unanimity, in a resolution 
for the immediate repeal of the Act of the Sixth of George /., declaratory 
of the right of Great Britain to legislate for Ireland. 

What would have been the consequence of the British parliament taking 
a different course may be sufficiently inferred from a short note of Grat- 
tan's to his friend Mr. Day, written a fortnight before : — 

"3foy 11, 1782. 
" Mt dear Day — I have only time to say that if nothing is concluded before our 
meeting, the 26th, toe mutt proceed as if refused ; protraction is inadmissible. Mention 
this, as it is of the last consequence. 


" Henby Grattan.'* 


Supposing that they had " proceeded as if refused," Great Britain had 
at this moment but five thousand disposable troops, to meet a hundred 
thousand volunteers, and two hundred pieces of artillery. 

In answer to the Lord Lieutenant's most gracious speech of the 27th, 
Mr. Grattan, in the fulness of his heart, moved an equally gracious address, 
accepting England's concession of the repeal question as full and satisfac- 
tory ; and assuring his Majesty that— 

'* No constitutiotial question between the two nations will any longer exist, which can inter- 
rupt their harmony ; Uiat Great Britain, as she has approved of our firmness, so may she 
rely on our affection; and that we remember and do repeat our determination to stand 
or fall with the British nation." 

The loyal and grateful address did not, strange to say, pass unanimously. 
There were two perverse, hard-headed lawyers in the house — ^Sir Samuel 
Bradstreet and Mr. David Walshe — ^with obstinate wills of their own, who^ 
in the midst of the general enthusiasm, presumed to doubt the non-existence 
of any remaining " constitutional question between the two nations which 
might interrupt their harmony," and can*ied their doubts to the ungracious 
length of dividing tlie house against those particular words. But what was 
a minority of two, among so many rejoicing and jubilant patriots ? The 
address was triumphantly carried, and the house adjourned amid the accla- 
mations of a loyal, trusting, and believing people. 

This eventful repeal session closed, on the 27th of July, with an eloquent 
Lord Lieutenant's speech, congratulatory, commendatory, and affectionately 
hortatory. It perorates thus : — 

'< What I would most earnestly press upon you, as that upon which your domestic 
peace and happiness, and the prosperity of the empire at this moment most immediately 
depend, is to cultivate and diffuse those sentiments of affectidn and confidence which 
are now happily restored between the two kingdoms. Convince the people in your 
Beveral districts, as you are yourselves convinced, ^9X every cause ofpast Jealousies and dis' 
contents is finally removed; that both countries have pledged their good faith to each 
other, and that their best security will be an inviolable adherence to that compact ; that 
the implicit reliance which Great Britain has reposed on the honour, generosity, and 
candour of Ireland, engages your national character to a return of sentiments equally 
liberal and enlarged. Convince them that the two kingdoms are nowoNB; indissolubly 
tonnected in unity of constitution and unity of interests ; that the danger and secuiity, 
the prosperity and calamity, of the one must equally affect the other— that they stand or 
fall together." 

Eighteen years from that day, this Duke of Portland was found speaking 
and voting for another sort of " unity " between tiie two kingdoms. 

It was a pleasant faith, while it lasted, that *' every cause of past jealou- 
sies and discontents was finally removed." Yet was there not something, 
after all, in what shrewd Lord Camden said, on seeing one of those grand 
Belfast Volunteer Reviews ? — " Keep it up, keep it up ; for^ rely on ity 
England will neveb fokgive you." 







In the summer of 1782, the state of Ireland seemed to promise a glorious 
future of freedom, virtue, and prosperity. Rich in all the raw material 
of national power and greatness ; hghtly taxed, and hut moderately indebted ; 
her industry liberated from the shackles, and her self-respect secured from 
the insult of foreign legislation ; her parUament patriotic, and her people 
united ; Catholic and Protestant for a while forgetting, the one his servi- 
tude and the other his ascendency, in the amity of a common citizenship ; 
her volunteer army superseding all other army, doing the work at once of 
military and police, keeping the peace at home, and averting war from 
abroad— holding France in check, and extorting concession from England ; 
emancipated from the control of the British legislature, while still sharing 
the protection of the British crown, Independent Ireland seemed about to 
take her place in the great family of European nations, under circumstances 
every way favourable to a vigorous and healthy national life. By what 
wretched fatality it was that all these fair hopes were blighted, we are now 
to show. We have seen Ireland and her Volunteers in the hour of their 
great success ; we are now to witness the yet greater disappointment by 
which that success was promptly followed ; from which we shall pass on, 
in the next chapter, to those renewed efforts of baffled and defeated pa~ 
triotism which ultimately produced the Rebellion of 1 798. 

Those " lawyers' doubts" which we mentioned in the last chapter were 
not long confined to the lawyers — ^they made rapid progress among th^ 
people, and took strong hold of the popular mind. The national re- 
joicings and thanksgivings at the "final adjustment" of May, 1782, were 
not well over before it began to be more than suspected that the final 
adjustment was no adjustment at all ; that the finaHty was a mere and 
simple cheat, with which the craft of a foreign cabinet and the treachery 
of a domestic legislature had conspired to abuse the * confidence of a too 
credulous people. Great Britain had repealed the act of 6 George I., 
declaratory of her right to make laws for Ireland. But what of thati 
said the lawyers; as that act was not enacting, but only declaratory — de- 
claratory of an assumed pre-existing state of the law and constitution as 
regarded the relations of the two countries — to repeal it, to withdraw the 
declaration, was merely bringing matters back to where they were at the 
time the declaration was first made; and it would always remain competent 
to Great Britain to renew the declaration. The operation of the Sixth 
of George I. was not to alter the law, but only to declare it ; therefore the re- 
peal of the Sixth of George I. did not alter the law, but only left it undeclared. 
Great Britain had not disclaimed her usurped and assumed right of legis- 
lating for Ireland ; she had only, for convenience' sake, scored out from 
her statute-book a particular form of words asserting the right, leaving it 
open to her to re-assert the right, at such time and in such form as she 
might think proper. So that Ireland had gained simply nothing by this 


repeal ; it only put the question back to where it stood in the fifth year of 
the reign of George I. Great Britain ought to have disclaimed the alleged 
right to legislate for Ireland, to haye renounced it altogether as a usurpa- 
tion, null and void ab initio.* 

These legal doubts were the occasion of a popular and party schiBm, 
which was of the worst possible consequence to the peace and freedom of 
Ireland, which marred the great victory of 1782, weakened, by dividing, 
the power of the people and their leaders, strengthened the hands of their 
oppressors, foreign and domestic, and left uncured and incurable those dis- 
contents and causes of discontent which finally exploded in the Rebellion of 
1798. This question of repeal or renunciation completely spoiled the 
first year of Ireland's independence. It divided the Volunteers,f it divided 
the people, it divided the people's best friends in parliament ; it brought to 
a head the mischievous animosity between Flood and Grattan — the very 
men of all others, on whose union and mutual co-operation the best interests 
,of Ireland then depended ; it gave the old discomfited court faction a little 
breathing time for self-recovery — it did mischief, and only mischief. A 
more barren and unprofitable controversy than this of repeal and renuncia- 
tion never was. It made a curious case in legal and constitutional meta- 
physics, but was utterly void of practical utility. No doubt, Flood and the 
people were right in holding simple repeal an inadequate guarantee for 
Irish independence, but Grattan and the parliament were right too, in 
holding that, if repeal wo\ild not do, nothing would do. The truth is, the 
independence of Ireland rested not on any act of repeal, or of renunciation 
either, but on her own union and strength ; and whatever marred that 
union, and impaured that strength, went to the undoing of all that had been 
done by the struggle of the preceding four years. The futility of the 
controversy was sufficiently apparent when, in the session of 1783, in con- 
sequence of some new grounds of dissatisfaction having accidentally arisen 
to re-open the legal question between the countries, Great Britain did, 
almost without a debate, pass the much-desired renunciatory act (23 
George III., c. 28), by which it was declared and enacted that " the right 
claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by his 
Msyesty and the parhament of that kingdom, in all cases whatsoever, 
should be, and was thereby declared to be established and ascertained for 
ever, and should at no time thereafter be questioned or questionable." 
Even then Ireland was not satisfied. The simple-repeal party were mw- 
tified at the triumph of their opponents, whose objections to the original 
arrangement were thus constructively allowed and confirmed by the British 
legislature ; and the renunciation party thought that the new act did not go 
far enough, and made much work for themselves in picking holes in lie 
very instrument that seemed designed for the perpetual and irrevocable 
confirmation of their liberties. 

In truth, nothing could have satisfied any reflecting and moderately 
sceptical Irishman, that the liberty of his country was assured by what 

♦ See the arguments of the Recorder, Sir Samuel Bradstrcet, and Mr. David Walshc, 
in the debate of May, 178S. Mr. Flood, likewise, was one of the objectors. 

t On the 3rd of August, l76*2, the Belfast volunteer delegates debated for eleven hours 
on a clause in their address to their reviewing general, Lord Charlemont, expressire of 
"fttU satiaOeiction.*' at the repeal act. A majority oi two expunged the clauae. 


British ministers or British parliaments might say or do. The case, from 
the very nature of it, did not allow of such satisfaction being either given 
or received. The adjustment of May, 1782, had been declared "final." 
The parliament in Dublin had voted that "no constitutional question 
between the two nations would any longer exist which could interrupt 
their harmony," and had responded with acclamations to the vicereg^ 
assurance, that " every cause of jealousies and discontents was finally 
removed." It was pleasant to think that— but, alas ! the thing could not 
be. The repeal act of 1782 was itself a most potent cause of jealousies 
and discontents; and not seven years elapsed without producing two 
constitutional questions of first-rate magnitude and importance, which 
essentially interrupted the harmony of the countries, and indicated an 
anomaly in their relations, only to be solved either by separation or 
incorporate union. Finality there could not be in an arrangement which 
the essentially and habitually weaker of two neighbouring and closely 
connected countries had extorted by menace, under favour of a most 
singular combination of circumstances, of brief duration and almost im- 
possible recurrence, from the essentially and habitually stranger. The 
crisis would pass away ; the essential and habitual would prevail over the 
casual and accidental ; and the first-rate power would regain, under some 
new name or form, its old ascendency over the second-rate power. " Keep 
U up, keep U up : for, rely on it, England will never forgive youy' — 
there was more of the practical philosophy of poUtics in this, than in whole 
libraries of disquisition on the respective merits of renunciation and repeal. 
As long as Ireland could and would " keep it up " — ^keep up that spirit 
and power of armed union which had won her independence — so long her 
independence was safe ; and as soon as Ireland ceased to keep it up, her 
independence was gone. From the time that the two countries began to 
return to their old and habitual mutual relations of superiority and infe- 
riority — ^from that hour would England begin graduafly to regain that which 
she had suddenly lost. 

The lawyers were quite right in their doubts, though not exactly on 
lawyer grounds. "Discontents and jealousies" in abundance did remain. 
No declarations, no repeal or renunciation acts, nor anything else that a 
British ministry or parliament might say or do, could ever make the in- 
dependence complete and reciprocal. Great Britain, the stronger of the 
two, had been humbled by Ireland, the weaker ; and Great Britain could 
not but be jealous, and Ireland suspicious. We may say, in general, that 
the adjustment of 1782 never could be regarded by any British statesman 
as finsd ; and there is plenty of evidence, in particular, to show that it was 
not so regarded by the statesmen by whom it was made. Thus, durijqg 
the month of June in that year, we find the Marquis of Rockingham writing 
to Lord Charlemont — 

" There are matters which may want adjttstment in ih$ new state in which England and 
Ireland now standi I heartily wish that no time was lost on either side, in accelerating 
the adjustment of any such matters which might hereafter cause any disputes or mis- 
understandings, and that this happy moment of friendship, and cordiality, and confi- 
dence between the countries was made use of to form and arrange plans of mutual 
and reciprocal support." 

On which Lord Charlemont, not a little perplexed and annoyed at the 

4d HISTOEY OF *rHfi 

prospect of more ** adjustment" being needed^ Writes tack to the MaN 

"The paragraph in your lordship's letter^ whdtd you mention that in the new state 
in which England and Ireland now stand th^re are matters which may want adjust- 
menty I do not entirety comprehend. That all future disputes or misunderstandings 
should be obviated, is undoubtedly a principle of which no man can disapprove ; but 
till your lordship shall be pleased particularly to specify the means by which this 
great object may be attained, it is impossible for me to form any judgment or to give 
any opinion.*** 

The value of the vice-regal and parliamentary assurance that " no 
constitutional question between the two countries would any longer exist 
which could interrupt their harmony," may be further tested by a refer- 
ence to the correspondence of the statesmen by whom the " final adjust- 
ment'* was devised and effected. On the 6th of June, 1782 — just ten 
days after the Irish Commons had voted the non-existence of any such 
outstanding constitutional question — the Duke of Portland writes thus 
to Lord Shelbume : — 

" I have the best reason to hope that I shall soon be enabled to transmit to you the 
sketch or outlines of an act of parliament to be adopted by the legislatures of the res- 
pective kingdoms, by which the superintending power and supremacy of Great Britain in aU 
matters of state and general eemmerce will be virtually and eflfectually acknowledged ; 
and that Ireland will adopt every such regulation as may he judged necessary hy Great 
Britain for the better ordering and securing her tr^de and commerce with foreign na- 
tions or her own colonies and dependencies. J am flattered with the naost positive 
assurances from * « * and * * ♦ of their support in carrying such a bill through both 
houses of parliament, and I think it most advisable to brin^ it to perfection at the pre- 
sent moment.** 

That is to say *' he had every reason • to hope" that Ireland would 
. surrender, at that present moment, the veiy pith and marrow of the in- 
dependence which she had so recently and so laboriously won. Lord 
Shelburne, on the 9th of the same month, writes, much delighted, in 

" I have lived in the most anxious expectation of some sudi measure offering itself. 
* ♦ * Let the two kingdoms be one — which can only be by Ireland now acknowledging the 
superintending power and supremacy to be where nature has placed it, in precise and unam^ 
biguous terms. I am sure I need not inculcate on your Grace the importance of words 
in an act which must decide on the happiness of ages, particularly in what regards con- 
tribution and trade, subjects most likely to come into frequent question.** . 

The agreeable and flattering prospect was, however, soon clouded over- 
On the '22nd, the Duke writes back to Lord Shelbume : — 

" The disappointment and mortification I suffer, by the unexpected change in those 
dispositions which had authorised me to entertain the hopes I have,' perhaps too san- 
guinely, expressed in my letter of the 6th instant, must not prevent me from acquainting 
you that for the present those expectations must be given up. * * * By the accounts 
of the evsots of these three or four days, and by the timidity and jealousy of the first 
people in this country, it is clear that any injudicious or offensive measures may be pre- 
vented ; but that any attempt to conciliate the mind of this nation to any such measure, 
as I intimated the hope of, would at this moment be delusive and impossible.'*t 

Here were the first signs of the creeping, incipient Union^ as Grattan 
afterwards called it in the bitterness of his heart, when he found his mis- 

* Hardy's * Life of the Earl of Charlemont," vol. ii., pp. 37—42. 
t See Plowden's "Historical Review," vol. !., p. 611, Note, 


lake. The " fiftal adjustment" of May WAS discovered, in June, to stand 
in need of a re-adjustment. 

On the whole, never was a nation more mistaken than Ireland, in ' 
thinking that Great Britain, hy repealing this or renouncing that, made 
her independent : only hy a war of separation, sharp and bloody as that 
which severed the American colonies from the mother country, could 
such independence ever be realised. Never had a people less reason to 
be elated, — ^never did a people risk more by over-confidence and political 
credulity, — ^never had a people more need of union, activity and vigi- 
lance, than the Irish in 1782. They had made an immense effort, and 
gained an immense victory ; but it was a victory full of peril, and could 
only be retained by the continuous, unsleeping exertioii of the energies 
by which it had been won.. Meanwhile, Ireland, most unhappily for her 
peace and freedom, was not in a condition in which continued imion and 
strength were possible. 

No sooner had the victory of 1782 been obtained, than it began to be but 
too plain that it was no victory for the people, and that not by the people 
would its fruits be gathered. It. was as complete a case of the sic vos nOtif 
vohis as history has anywhere to show. The armed Irish people, with an 
energy and wisdom which have never been sm*pa8sed and rarely approached, 
had effected a peaceful revolution — ^had achieved the independence of 
their legislature. But Hberty, justice, good government, wise laws ho* 
nestly administered — ^these were further off from them than ever, unless 
they had energy and wisdom to make one effort more. The Irish parliar 
ment was now . independent of the British parliament. But what if the 
Irish parliament were likewise independent of tJie Irish people?^ What 
was to be expected then, but that a new domestic tyranny should be sub- 
stituted for the old foreign tyranny, and the last state of Ireland be worse 
than her first ? Parliamentary independence, without parliamentary reform, 
was only an exchange of one mode of oppression and misgovemment for 
another — perhaps a worse. The work, it was plain, was as yet but half 
done. Accordingly, that cry for parliamentary reform which the distresses 
and disgraces of the American war had already roused in England, and 
which, with the son of Chatham for its organ, ceemed advancing to a 
speedy and sure triumph, soon found a response in Ireland ; and the alert 
and awakened " faculty of the Irish nation was braced up" once more to 
complete " the act of her own deliverance," by piuifying and popularising 
the constitution of her emancipated parliament. On the 1st of July, 

* The most moderate and mitigated accotiiit we have met with of the state of the Iriab 
representation at that time is given by Plowden :— 

" The House of Commons consisted of 300 members ; 64 of them were sent by the 
counties, the remainder by cities and boroughs. The 64 from counties were in some 
measure in the option of the people ; and about as many more from the cities and bo- 
roughs might, by extraordinary exertions of the people, be freely chosen. Upon that 
calculation the people, by possibility, might send 128 members to parliament. The other 
boroughs, which were close or snug, sent the remainder, 172. These were the property 
of some few lord§ and commoners ; and being the majority, the House of Commons con- 
sequently, as it stood, was the representative of an aristocracy." — " Historical Review,** 
vol. ii., p. 32. 

The " people," in the above calculation, meahs the Protestant section of thepeople. The 
Irish Catholic people had no part nor lot ig the matter* 


1783, a meeting of delegates from fdrty-five compaiues of YoluuteerB of ifae 
province of Ulster — 

Rbsolted unanimously — " That «. general meeting of the Volunteer delegates of the 
prorince of Ulster, on the subject of a more eftud representation of the people in parliamsnif 
is hereby earnestly entreated to be held at Dungannon on Monday, the Sth of Septeift- 
ber next." 

A cmnmittee was appointed, to correspond with the Volunteer armies of 
the other provinces, and make arrangements for a general and contenta- 
neous movement. A vigorous and active correspondence with the English 
reform associations was also carried on. "Xlie committee, in their report-— 

"Trust that the spirit of firmness and integrity, which has already restored this 
Ancient kingdom to her rank in the nations, will crown the 8th of September, 1783, as a 
day which is to form the groundwork of internal emancipatioti on a basis, as great as that 
on which our rights, as an independent nation, hare been with such rapid success 
already established." 

The Ulster Volunteer Association met accordingly at Dungannon, on 
the 8th of September, and arranged a plan of united and continuous na- 
tional agitation. Delegates were present from two hundred and seventy- 
two companies, and it was — 

HesolyeD Unanikouslt — " That a committee of five persons from each county be 
now chosen, by ballot, to represent this province in a Grand National Convention, to 
be held at noon, in the Royal Exchange of Dublin, on the 10th day of November next; 
to which, we trust, each of the other provinces will send delegates, to diffest and publish a 
plan of parliamentary reform^ to pursue mch meattires as may appear to tJiem most likely to 
render it effectual^ to adjourn from time to time, and convene provincial meetings if found 

They closed their proceedings with an address to the Volunteer armies 
of the other provinces, of which the most significant passage runs thus :— 

** Through her four provincial assemblies, let Ireland's temperate declarations flow to 
one common centre, and there, matured into an extensive plan of reform, be produced as 
the solemn act of the Volunteer army of Ireland — as a demand of rights, robbed of which the 
unanimated forms of a free government would be a curse, and existence itself cease to 
be a blessing. 

All which reads excellently well, and seems to give fair promise of a 
good and great result. But at this Dungannon meeting one mistake was 
made, of fatal consequence. Our Volunteers, unanimous on most points, 
were divided on one. Determined to be free, they had not made up their 
minds to be just ; their " demand of rights" was not inconsistent with the 
continued infliction of the grossest wrongs on five-sixths of their country- 
men ; their notion of " an extensive plan of reform" did not extend to the 
reform of the worst grievance of all — the political slavery of the Catholic 
millions. At this Dungannon meeting, the old Protestant-ascendancy 
spirit spoke out again : it was proposed that the elective franchise should 
be given to Catholics, and, through the influence of Lord Charlemont and 
his friends, rejected. Even yet, the existence of the Irish Catholic 
people was not recognised. 

With this taint upon them, of bigotry, exclusiveness, tyranny, and in- 
justice prepense, the Volunteer delegates met at Dublin, on the 10th of 
ifovember, 1783, in a Gbakd NAXioifAL Contentiok— « parliament 


ftedy chosen by the people («.tf., by the Froteetant section of the people) 
fer the purification and reform of the other parliament of aristocratic, minis- 
terial, and corporation nominees. The assembly comprised much of the 
very best that Ireland could furnish of talent, character, eloquence, and 
patriotism ; some men of high rank^ many of large fortime, sevend of 
extensive political and parliamentary influence.* The Royal Exchange 
being found too small for them, they immediately adjourned in grand pro- 
cession to the Rotunda, the finest room in Ireland, situated within view oi 
the Commons' House of ParUament, which was then sitting. For what 
foUowSy we again avail ourselves of the aid of that admirable historic 
painter. Sir Jonah Barrington,f who, at the head of the cavalry corps of 
" CuUenagh Rangers,'' attended the delegates on the occasion as a guard 
of honour. In his delightful pages the whole of that joyous scene lives 
again, bright and fresh as a thing of to-day :— 

*' The firing of cannon announced the first movement of the delegates from the Royal 
Exchange to the Rotunda. A troop of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Edwards, com- 
menced the procession ; the Liberty Brigade of artillery, commanded by Napper Tandy, 
with a band, succeeded ; a company of the Barristers' grenadiers, headed by Colonel 
Pedder, -with a national standard of Ireland borne by a captain of grenadiers, and sur^ 
rounded by the finest men they could select, came after, their muskets slung, and bright 
battle-axes borne on their shoulders ; a battalion of infantry, with a band, followed ; and 
then the delegates, two and two, with side-arms, and in their respective unilorms ; 
broad green ribands were worn across their shoulders. The Protestant chaplains of the 
different regiments, in their cassocks, marched each with his respective corps, giving 
solemnity to the occasion, and as if invoking the blessing of Heaven on their efforts, 
which had a wonderful effect on the surrounding multitude. Several standards and 
colours were borne by the different corps of horse and foot ; and another brigade of 
artillery^ commanded by Counsellor Calbeck, with labels on the cannons' mouths,]; was 
escorted by the-Barristers* Corps, in scarlet and gold — the motto on their buttons being 
*vox populi suprema lex est,* The procession in itself was interesting in the extreme, 
but the surrounding scene was still more affecting. Their line of march, from the Ex- 
change to the Rotunda, was through the most spacious streets and quays of the city 
open on both sides to the river. An immense body of spectators crowding every win- 
dow and housetop would be but an ordinary occurrence, and might be seen and described 
without novelty or interest ; but on this occasion every countenance expressed zeal, every 
eye expressed solicitude, every action proclaimed triumph ; gieen ribands and handker- 
chiefs were waved from every window by the enthusiasm of its fair occupants, the 
crowds seemed to move on the house-tops ; ribands were flung upon the delegates as they 
passed. Yet it was not a loud or boisterous, but a firm and awful enthusiasm. It was 
not the effervescence of a heated crowd, it was not the fiery ebullition of a glowing 
people, it was not sedition, it was liberty that inspired them : the heart bounded, 
though the tongue was motionless.** ♦ * ♦ 

"The artillery had scarcely announced the entry of the delegates into the Rotunda, 
when that silent respect which had pervaded theentiie population during the procession 
yielded to more lively feelings. No longer could the people restrain their joy. At first 
a low murmur seemed to proceed from different quarters, which, soon increasing in its 
fervour, at length burst into a universal cheer of triumph, like distant thunder gradually 
rolling on, till one great and continued peal bursts upon the senses. The loud and inces- 
sant cheering of the people soon reverberated from street to street, contributing iJieir 
whole powers of acclamation to glorify an assembly which they had vainly conceived 
must be omnipotent ; it was an acclamation long, sincere, and unanimous, and occa- 

* In the list of delegates we note two names, in particular, which may inteiest the 
reader^the Right Honourable Colonel RoJMSftX Stbwart, afterwards Lord Castlertagh, 
aa4 Richard Loyell EooswoaTK. 

t "Historic Memoirs,*' vol. ii., p. 175 et seq, 

% The motto was — " Oh I Lord^ open thou our lips, and wf moutht shall show forth % 
p/mise !" 


Bionally died away only to be renewed with redoubled energy. The viHd interest eit- 
cited by this extraordinary and affecting scene can never be conceived save by those who 
were present and participated in its feelings, nor can time or age obliterate it fpom the 

This first day of the Grand National Convention ended (all business 
being adjourned till the morrow) with cheers, cannon, musketry and 
music, a general illumination, and universal jubilee. The government 
were astounded, the parliament enraged, and the privy councU perplexed 
and divided. 

The very first act of the convention, next morning, was a mistake. 
They elected for their president Lord Charlemont, a virtuous and pa^ 
triotic Whig nobleman, but a man over-cautious and moderate for a time 
and a work which needed energy first, and caution and moderation after- 
wards ; a man whose popular principles were dashed with aristocratic 
sympathies, whose anti-Catholic prejudices had already done some mischief, 
and were in the way to do much more ; a man whose very virtues bor- 
dered on the worst weaknesses which, at such a time, could spoil the 
people's work and ruin the people's cause, and who had only been in- 
duced to take part in the convention at all, by the hope of being able to put 
on the dra^ -chain to the chariot-Avheels of reform. When the Castle and 
the parliament heard that good Lord Charlemont was to be president, they 
breathed more freely, and took courage. 

The convention sat for upwards of three weeks, debating and discussing, 
in regular parliamentary form, the various plans that were submitted to 
them for remodelling and popularising the representation ; the Lord Lieu- 
tenant and privy council, meanwhile, holding their sittings midway between 
the two parliaments, and receiving alternate reports of the proceedings of 
each. At last, after infinite debate, the Reform Bill was ready. The 
eloquence, talent, and parliamentary reputation of Flood had secured to 
him the lead and practical dictatorslup of the assembly; munberless 
schemes of reform had been discussed and rejected — ^the libeial and ec- 
centric Bishop of Derry's " wild " notion of giving the franchise to Catho- 
lics had been scouted by large majorities— -and Mr. Flood's bill, having 
been duly sifted and improved upon by two committees, was declared to be 
the thing ; and on the afternoon of Saturday, the 29th of November, it 
was ordered by the convention that he, Mr. Flood, accompanied by such 
members of parliament as were also members of convention, should inune- 
diately go down to the House of Commons, and move for leave to bring in 
a bill the exact fac-simile of the one approved by the convention. The con- 
vention declared their sittings permanent until the fate of the bill should 
be decided. 

"Parliament," says Hardy, "now became the theatre of popular exertion. Whoever 
was present in the House of Commons on the night of the 29th of November, 1 783, 
eannot easily forget what passed there. I do not use any disproportionate language 
when I say that the scene was almost terrific. Several of the minority and all the 
delegates who had come from the convention were in uniforms, and bore the aspect of 
stem hostility. On the other hand, the administration, being supported on this occasion 
by many independent gentlemen, and having at their head very able men, such as Mr. 
Yelverton and Mr. Daly, presented a body of strength not always seen in the ministerial 
ranks, looked defiance to their opponents, and indeed seemed almost unassailable. They 
stood certainly on most advantageous ground, and that ground given to them by their 
adyersarieB. Mr. Flood, flushed with his recent triumphs in another place, and enjoying 


the lofty situation which hie abilities always placed him in, fearlessly led on the attack. 
Mr. Yelverton answered him with great animation, great strength of argument, and 
concluded with a geoerous, dignified appeal to the Volunteers, whom he applauded for 
every part of their conduct, the present alone excepted. Some speeches followed in a 
similar tone, but the minds of men soon became too heated to permit any regular debate 
whaterer. It was uproar, it was clamour, violent menace, and furious recrimination ! 
If ever a popular assembly wore the appearance of a wild and tumultuous ocean, it was 
on this occasion ; at certain, and those were very short, intervals there was something 
like a calm, when the dignity of parliament, the necessity of supporting the constitu- 
tion, and danger of any military assembly, were feelingly and justly expatiated on. The 
sad state of the representation was, wiUi equal truth, depicted on the other side. A 
denial of Volunteer interference, and the necessity of amending the representation, 
whether Volunteers existed or not, was, in the first instance, made with very imperfect 
sincerity, and in the latter with genuine candour. To this again succeeded tumult and 
confusion, mingled with the sad and angry voices of many who, allied to boroughs, 
railed at the Volunteers like slaves, not gentlemen, and pretended to uphold the consti- 
tution, whilst they were, in truth, appalled at the light that now began, as their terror 
suggested, to pervade their ancient and ambiguous property. But the imprudence of 
the Volunteers was of more service to such men than all their array of servile hostility ; 
on that night, at least, it proved their best safeguard, and placed them not within the 
shadowy, uncertain confines of a depopulated borough, where they could find no safety, 
but under the walls of the constitution itself. The tempest — ^for towards morning de- 
bate there was*almost none — at last ceased ; the question was put, and carried of course 
in favour of government. This was followed, and wisely too, by a resolution declaratory 
of the fixed determination of the house to maintain its privileges and just rights againU 
ony encroochntents whatever : and that it was then indtspensabli/ necessary to make such a 

This was obvidusly a vote of censure and defiance aimed at the Volun- 
teers and their convention. It was now plain that the latter had gone too 
far and too fast, unless they were prepared, without division or delay, to go 
much further. The convention had now no alternative except resistance 
or dissolution. They chose the weaker and the worse part — rather't we 
may say, in putting such a man as Lord Charlemont at their head, they 
had chosen already, and now there was no help for it. 

Tlus weak, well-intentioned, and extremely good sort of man thought^ 
at this crisis, more of the peace of his countiy than of its freedom. On 
Monday morning he repaired to the convention, with a few of his friends 
and partisans, before the usual hour of assembling ; cut short some angry 
and patriotic eloquence on the subject of the proceedings of Saturday, on 
the polite paiiiamentary ground, that " it was not usual to notice in one 
house what was said in another ;" got a loyal and constitutional address 
rapidly voted to his Majesty, together with some unanimous resolutions for 
a constitutional agitation of the reform question, and dissolved the conven- 
tion. The rotimda was speedily vacated by the select committee of 
management who had helped their chairman in this shabby trick; and. 
when the great body of the delegates arrived at the usual hour, they found 
the doors closed, the chairman gone, and learned with amazement that 
their Grand National Convention was over. 

This was the first blow which the Volunteers had received, and it waer 
fatal. From the morning of Monday, the 1st of December, 1783, their 
influence on the destinies of Ireland was practically null. They had 
measured their strength with the parUament, and the parliament had come 
off victorious. The Catholic question had divided them (a most righteous 

♦ Hardy's " Life of the Earl of Charlemont," vol. i!., pp..l35-137. 


retribution this — ^they could not be free, because they would not be just), 
and the prejudice which respected the legality and constitutionality of a 
rotten legislature paralysed them. They fell, and with them fell the last 
hope of peace, freedom, and good govemment for Ireland. They did not 
immediately disband ; for some ten years after this, they continued meeting 
and resolving, exercising and reviewing, but the virtue was gone out of 
them. These Volunteer reviews appeared henceforth, says Barrington, 
'^ only as boyish shows, to amuse the languid vanity of their deluded 
general. He passed their lines in military state, he received their salutes 
with grace and condescension, and recommended them to be tranquil and 
obedient ; and, after a peaceful campaign of four hours' duration, composed 
his mild and grammatical dispatches, and returned to his Marino (a favour* 
ite villa residence), and to the enjo3rment of the more congenial elegancies 
of literature and of private friendship." Never had a noble and hopeful 
be^nning a more lame and impotent conclusion, than in this business of 
the Irish Volunteers. 

The promised '' constitutional" agitation of the reform question did 
not amount to much. Early in the next year (1784) a second Reform 
Bill — Protestant, like the other— was brought into parliament by Flood, 
and rejected, the result of which rejection was popular outrage and rioting 
^the result of which rioting was a course of ministerial and parliamentary 
attacks on the freedom of the press, with all sorts of violences and ille-. 
galities on both sides, in which it were hard to say which party behaved 
the worst.* A little more agitation was got up in the summer ; strong 
resolutions were passed at metropolitan and county meetings, in some of 
which the " rights of our Roman Catholic brethren" found favourable 
mention, and a Grand National Congress was summoned at Dublin, for the 
25th of October. But " strong resolutions" had lost much of their efficacy 
since the dissolution of the Volunteer convention ; the Attorney-General 
(Fitzgibbon) met strong resolutions with strong acts, without being over- 
nice on the point of legality — summoning magistrates were prosecuted, and 
printers and publishers of strong resolutions imprisoned ; and, when the 
day of meeting came, the Grand National Congress turned out a sorry failure. 
The spirit of the nation was weakened by party division, and its heart sick 
with disappointment. Irishmen had not yet learned the art and science of 
peaceful, constitutional agitation. 

Ireland was now, therefore, left in the hands of her parliament. That 
legislature for whose independence the Volunteers had exercised and re- 
viewed, had debated and resolved, had menaced England and been ready 
to shed their blood, was now, with all its corruptions unreformed, the 
sole, unchecked, and irresponsible ruler of the Irish people. The result 
was indescribably mischievous. The independent parliament was found 
to transcend, in its shameless and sordid tyranny, all that had ever been 
previously realised or imagined of misgovernment in Ireland. The cause 
of this change for the worse lay in the essential nature of the new rela- 
tions which the revolution of 1782 had established between the two 
countries. Before the independence, it might be highly convenient and 
desirable, but it was not absolutely necessary, to Great Britain, to 

* See Plowden's " Historical Review," vol. ii., pp. 85-95. It was found necessary, this 
year, to legislate against the practice oihoughing toldiert. 


command a majority in the Irish House of Commons; a dependent 
legislature in Dublin might safely be allowed some little latitude while 
there i^as a supreme British parliament to undo its misdoings, make good 
its omissions, oyerawe its petulance, and check with a strong hand its 
aberrations from the line of British policy. The independent and co-equal 
legislature could not be safely indulged in any such vagaries. A British 
majority in the Irish Commons was now an essential condition of the in- 
tegrity of the empire. Exactly in the same degree in which Ireland was 
necessary to Great Britain, a sure working majority in the Irish parlia- 
ment was necessary to Great Britain, let the cost of gaining and keeping 
that majority be what it might. The empire could not stand, if ibe two 
parliaments were not at one in their politics ; they miist be kept together 
somebow, or there would come a war of separation. Hence arose a sys- 
tem of parliamentary bribery and corruption, unparalleled in the history of 
parliaments, carried on with undeviating regularity, and on a scale of the 
wildest prodigality in point of expense, from the revolution of 1782^ down 
to tbe year of the legislative union. Hence a state of things under which 
a law-officer of the crown (Fitzgibbon*), could threaten parliament, when 
hesitating in its obedience, with \he cost of breaking down an opponiion. 
Hence a profusion, venality, jobbery and peculation, unexampled and 
unimaginedjf in all the departments of government — impunity being 
assured to the worst public offenders if they had but parliamentary in- 
fluence to back them. Hence an Irish pension list, exceeding, by many 
thousands annually, even that of England, and regularly growing under 
the bands of each successive viceroy, with every fresh parliamentary 
difficulty. Hence that system detailed by Orattan, in his speech of 
February 20, 1790, when he charged the government, in the boldest and 
distinctest terms— courting and demanding parliamentary inquiry — ^with 
selling peerages — ^not figuratively, but literally ; selling peerages for money, 
and with that money buying seats and votes in the Commons — ^thus 
making the two branches of the legislature auxiliary to each other's cor- 
ruption, selling the aristocracy to buy the democracy. We are not to 
suppose, from all this, that a parliament of Irishmen was, by any law or 
necessity of Irish nature, worse than a parliament of Englishmen and 
Scotchmen, But the policy of Great Britain required, in the new rela- 
tions of the countries, that the British minister for the time being should 
be quite sure of an Irish majority, to work smoothly along with his British 
majority ; and the wealth of Great Britain supplied the means of carrying 
that policy into effect. 

On the whole the policy was tolerably successful. The British minister 
could, usually and habitually, command the votes of at least two-thirds 
of the Irish House of Commons ; but with some remarkable exceptions — 
two in particular, in which the independent parliament really did assert its 
independence, and decide national questions in a national spirit. These 

♦ On Grattan's motion for a short money bill, February 25, 1789. 

fWhen the Marquis of Buckingham commenced his viceroyalty (in 1787) with a, 
vigilant overhauling of the public accounts, the dismay in all the offices was terrible ; 
there v(ras a general absconding of clerks, treasurers, and secretaries, and some cutting 
of throats. For further particulars, see Plowden's "Historical Review,** vol. ii., p. 199. 
Yet this nobleman soon lost his virtue. He had not been three years in Ireland before 
he found it necessary to bribe and job oa a larger iscale than tbe boldest of his pre- 


two exceptions are of the sort which, as grammarians say, prove tlie rule* 
The Irish parliament asserted its independence and nationality, and the 
British Minister resolved accordingly that, on the first convenient oppor- 
tunity, the Irish parliament should cease to be ; that the independent na- 
tionality should be absorbed in a legislative union. The first of these 
Irish parliamentary divarications from the line of British imperial po- 
licy occurred in 1785, in the business of the celebrated Commercial 
Propositions of Mr. Pitt. The general object of these propositions, as 
originally stated by their framer, was one which in the present day seems 
unexceptionable and excellent enough. It was the " commercial equality" 
of the two countries ; the entire, permanent, and irrevocable identity of 
the fiscal arrangements of Great Britain and Ireland, with reference 'to 
foreign trade. Of these Commercial Propositions, introduced by Mr. Pitt 
into the British legislature in May, 1785, and eventually adopted by both 
houses of the British parliament — ^the most obnoxious to Ireland was the 
fourth, which runs thus : — 

« That it is highly important to the general interests of the British empire that the 
Imwsfor regulating trade and navigation should be the same in Great Britain and Ireland; 
and therefore, that it is essential towards carrying into effect the present settlement, 
that all iaws which have been made, or shall be made, in Great Britain, for securing exclu« 
sive privileges to the ships and mariners of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British colo- 
nies and plantations, and for regulating and restraining the trade of the British colo- 
nies and plantations, such laws, imposing the same restraints, and conferring the same 
benefits on the subjects of both kingdoms, should be in force in Ireland, by laws to be 
passed by the parliament of that kingdom, for the same time, and in the same manner, as 
in Great Britain." 

This was a bold stroke. It was an attack on the independence of Ire- 
land at the precise point at which she was most sensitive ; an attempt to 
get back, in the form of perpetual and irrevocable treaty, that power of 
Great Britain to legislate for Ireland, which Ireland and her Volunteers 
had successfully abolished in 1782. It was a proposition for making the 
Irish legislature a mere registration-office for British acts of parliament. 
It was what Grattan called it (in his speech of August 12, 1785), "a 
UNION, an incipient and a creeping union; a virtual union, establishing 
one will in the general concerns of commerce and navigation, and re- 
posing that will in the parliament of Great Britain ; it was a union in 
which the Irish parliament would preserve its existence after it had lost 
its authority ; " it was "a declaration that the full and free external le- 
gislation of the Irish parliament was incompatible with the British empire." 
Altogether, it was a thing not to be endured — the whole soul of Ireland 
turned against it. The memories and aspirations of 1782 were not yet 
quite extinct in the Irish legislature ; the Commercial Propositions were 
received there "with scorn and indignation, and on the 12th of August, 1785, 
after a debate of eighteen hours, the ministerial majority was so slender as to 
be considered equivalent to a defeat, and the plan was abandoned. Pitt never 
forgot nor forgave the independent legislature his defeat qu this occasion. 
It showed that the independence was, after all, a reality, — ^that the two 
countries actually were two, and not one. This triumph of Irish nation- 
ality and independence over British imperial policy laid the foundation, in 
the minister's mind, of the legislative union,* 

. ♦ The ministerial mind was spoken, with more warmth than discretion, -by Fitzgib- 
bon in the debate of the 15th August, when he said — '* Great Britain is not easily 


The next explosion of Irish parliamentary independence was in 1789, 
-on the Regency Question. In January of that year Mr. Pitt introduced, 
and eventually carried through both houses of the British legislature, 'a 
bill entrusting the regency of Great Britain, for so long as the malady of 
<5eorge III. should continue, to the Prince of Wales ; with certain con- 
siderable limitations, however (as to the right of granting peerages and 
pensions), which were in the last degree mortifying to the Prince. The 
minister entirely intended and expected that Ireland would follow the 
example of Great Britain ; at the same time, he had so vivid a remem- 
brance of the business of 1785, that he determined to adopt every pbs« 
aible precaution to avoid the recurrence of a similar humiliating defeat. 
-Unlimited powers and peremptory orders were sent over to Dublin Castle, 
to manage the Irish Parliafnent by every devisable method of bribery 
and intimidation, and not to call the houses together until the Viceroy 
should be sure of a majority. The powers were lavishly used, and the 
orders faithfully obeyed; but it was all in vain. Dublin Castle and the 
JBritish treasury together could not carry their point. The canvass was 
unsuccessful, and the Lord Lieutenant was obliged at last to summon 
parliament for the 5th of February, with a clear foreknowledge of defeat. 
This regency question was one which appealed strongly to the pride of 
nationality. It was a question on which the Irish parliament had feelings 
in conunon with the Irish people; and then, supposing that the King 
should not recover, it would be a fine stroke of policy to secure the 
good regards of the Prince and his new cabinet, by giving him powers 
and prerogatives which Great Britain had refused. The result was that, 
not without much embarrassment and hesitation on the part of the cour« 
tiers and placemen,* both houses of the Irish parliament voted an address 
to the Prince, soliciting his acceptance of an unrestricted regency of the 
kingdom of Ireland, requesting him ** to exercise and administer," during 
the continuation of his Majesty's indisposition, "aW regal powers and 
prerogatives to the crown and government thereof belonging." On the 
19th of February, the two Houses waited on the Lord Lieutenant with 
their address, and requested him to transmit it to the Prince. The 
Viceroy refused; whereupon the House of Commons passed a vote of 
censure on his Excellency, tod sent a deputation of their own to England 
to hand the address to the Prince, by whom it was most ^aciously re- 

Most imluckily for these patriots, while the deputation were in London 
the King recovered; and the refractory majority soon experienced the 
effects of their late escapade, in a wholesale clearing-out of government 
offices, great and small. To Ireland and her independence, the conse- 

roused, but if roused she is not very easily appeased; and therefore I say Ireland is a 
besotted nation if she seeks to quarrel with England.** 

It is curious that these Commercial Propositions were almost equally odious (though 
on other grounds) in England. The manufacturers vehemently resisted the modified 
oommercial equality which they were designed to establish. The first time, we believe, 
that the name of Robert Peel (tJie father of the Premier) appears in history, is on this 
occasion, as one of a deputation of alarmed and aggrie?ed lAncashire maniifacturers at 
the bar of the House of Commons. 

, * One Sir John Tydd, a friend of government, on being asked *'how he intended to 
play his cards,*' sagaciously replied, " that it was difficult to say, until be knew what 
vere trutnps,** 


queBce of this affair was more serious, though less immediately apparent— 
viz., the deadly hostility of two most formidable and powerful enesiies— 
^e King and Mr. Pitt. It was now understood what to ac^ustment of 
1782 really meant — Great Britain and Ireland might, in a contingency, 
.which had occurred, and might occur again, come to have two distinct 
ewectUives- This regency question, coming on to back of to commercial 
•question, settled, in to minds of to minister and his rc^al master, to 
question of the legislatiYe union.* 

As we are not writing the history of this period, Imt only sketehing sm^ 
a general outline of it as may prepare the reader to approach the events of 
1798 and to years immediately preceding, with a full understanding of 
their causes, we abstain from going further into to details of Irish padia^ 
mentary history during to years following to legislative independence. 
The general character of Irish legislation and government, as it affected 
the happiness and rights of to fi-ish people, may be sufficiently inferred 
irom what we have already seen of the constitution of the legislature, and 
its relations to Great Britain. Independent Ireland was governed as a 
province, but far worse governed than provinces commonly are ; for to 
mother country, destitute of imperial control, was obliged, in all things that 
did not touch her own interests, to accommodate and humour the colo- 
nial '^ House of Assembly," which had broken loose from her suprranacy. 
From the year of independence, until to commencement of to French 
revolution, the political condition of Ireland grew steadily worse and worse. 
With to important exception of an increasing commercial activity and 
prosperity, consequent on to liberation of her trade from the shackles of 
^British legislation, we know not of any one thii^ that she gained by the 
revolution which we retraced in the last chi^ter. From to hour tot the 
Volunteers first became divided and enfeebled, every public abuse took 
deeper root, struck out lustier branches, and bore a more pestiferous fruit ; 
acts of legislative and administrative oppression were multiplied and aggra* 
vated by the assured impunity of their perpetrators, and the efforts oP to 
dwindling minority of honest men in parliament sank into a more confirmed 
and inveterate hopelessness. Every liberal, reasonable, and honest motion, 
however moderately worded, however palpable and enormous the grievance 
against which it might be directed, was unfailingly crushed by pkced and 
pensioned majorities. Not a thing could the liberal minority do, or get 
done, during ten weary years of parliamentary effort. They could not 
obtain the common elementary securities for parliamentary freedom, as re- 
cognised in the constitution of Great Britain, nor to most gentle abatement 
of grievances unknown to Great Britain ; not a pension bill, nor a place 
bill, nor a bill establishing ministerial responsibility for ministerial acte, nor 
a bill to prevent revenue officers and other small hangers-on of government 
from voting at elections, nor a bill to prevent offices and reversions of 
offices from being given to absentees, no^ a bill for regulating the tito of 

* It might have been thought thut, at least, Ireland had made om fa«t friend by this 
aSiur. In the month of February, 1789, the Prince of Wal« said to Mr. Pelham, ^who 
was writing to Grattan, " Tdl Grattan that I am a moH determined Irishman,"^*' lAfevf 
Grattan," vol. iii., p. 373. 

The " determined Irishman " resisted, to the last moment to -which resistance was 
89fe or possible, the enfranchisement of the Catholic Imh people, and showed his Irish. 
sympathies by crossing the channel, in 1821, vith Cattkreagh for hia best-loved and ho* 
noured companion. 


the miserable Munster peasant's potatoes. Every popular grievance, civil, 
polidcal, and ecclesiastical, was industriously aggravated, till popular dis- 
content resiched rebellion point f and every tumult or disturbance whidi 
could, with any sort of decency, be designated ** rebelUcm,'' was industri- 
ously improved into a police bill, a Whiteboy act, or some other such piece 
of machinery for putting the IfU'gest possible qusmtity of wbitrary power 
kito the worst possible hands.* 

On the whole, we doubt whether hktory can show a worse governed 
country than Ireland during the years of her so-called indepaid^ice^ or a 
more coirupt, degraded, and mercenary legislative body, than the parlia- 
anent which Volunteer bayonets had emancipated from British control. 

This was the wsAPPoiNTiiENT which expressed itself in those renewed 
popular efforts winch eventually terminated in the Rebellion of 1798— such 
a disappointment as, c(Hning after such a success, it has seldom been the 
historian's lot to record. 



In the last chapter we completed our Introduction to the History of the 
Irish Rebellion of 1 798. The reader is now in possession of the more 
material of those facts and relations of Irish history and politics which 
constitute the causes of that popular effort — or rather, that series of popu- 
lar efforts— of which the rebellion of 1798 was the explosive termination. 
In the social and poHtical condition of the Irish Catholics under the exe- 
crable Penal Code — stripped of every civil franchise, injured and insulted 
in every domestic relation, cramped in every industrial pursuit (except 
the hewing of wood and drawing of water for their Protestant task-mas- 
ters), branded with one universal, all-pervading attainder and outlawry, 
the very fact of their existence not recognised by the law, and their right 
to breathe contingent on the connivance of government— we have seen 
one of the two great elements of the social state and political history of 
Ireland in the eighteenth centiuy ; and in the gradual rise and progress, 
among the Irish Protestant people, of a spirit of nationality and independ- 
ence — as represented by the names of Molyneux, Swift, and Lucas, and 
expressed in a standing and growing parliamentary opposition to the 
Sritish ministry and legislature, from about the midcfle of the century to 

♦ If any of our readers wish for a brief compendious view of the way in which Ire- 
land was governed at this period, they nay read Grattan's speeches in 1786 and 1789, on 
the Dublin Police Bill. The whole thing is there, in small — the wastefulness, the ineffi- 
ciency, the extortion, the reciileBeness of personal and social rights, the love of oppres- 
sion for oppression's sake. 

62 HiaTOBY or the 

the period of the American War— we have traced the deyelopment of 
. the other. In the struck of Ireland and her Volunteers against British 
supremacy, and the conquest of free trade and legislative independence, 
. we have seen the partial and temporary union of these two elements, and 
noted the hrilliant success that followed that first -grand effort of united 
Irishmen. And in the years of wretched and wicked misgovemment 
that ensued ; in the disappointment of every popular expectation, and 
defeat of every popular effort ; in the continuance and aggravation, under 
a new name, of the worst evils of the old English ascendency, we have 
marked the consequences of that disunion which religious bigotry so soon 
effected between the two great sections of the Irish people. The Volun- 
teers ceased to be formidable when they ceased to be just — ^they could 
not be free, because their definition of freedom included the slavery of 
their Catholic countrymen. By union, Ireland achieved the independence 
of her parliament ; by disunion, she faUed of achieving that reform of par- 
liament, without which the independence could be nothing better than a 
nuisance with a fine name; she paid the penalty which nature ever allots to 
injustice, in the practical break-down of one of the noblest national efforts 
that history records. 

We have seen that the experiment of the legislative independence 
turned out to be a failure. It failed of producing its expected fruits of 
peace, freedom, good government, wise laws, and honest administration. 
It failed, because the power that achieved the legislative independence 
could not, for lack of wisdom and virtue, go on to achieve legislative 
reform, but gave way on the first attempt, crippled by the party division 
consequent on religious animosities. Ireland was disappointed, and the 
disappointment was excellently well deserved. We are now to trace 
the history of those renewed efforts, which began when Irishmen found 
their mistake and set themselves resolutely to repair it — ^when the two 
great sections of the Irish people combined their several grievances in one 
common mass of discontent and agitation, and' joined tlieir several forces 
in one phalanx of United Ibishmen ; and which went on and on, year 
after year, until, under the action of the irritants unsparingly applied by 
an incendiary government, the whole together exploded in the Rebellion 
of 1798. 

At the commencement of the French Revolution, the political state of 
Ireland was at its lowest point of depression. The spirit of 1782 gave 
but few and feeble signs of its existence. The Volunteers still went on 
with their periodical exercisings and reviewings, but division had 
weakened, and disappointment had chilled them; their numbers had 
declined, and their old political vitality seemed extinct. The popular 
cause was altogether hopeless in a parliament bought and sold by British 
ministries, unless some new pressure from without could be brought to 
bear on its corruptions ; and the materials of such pressure from without 
were as yet non-existent, or non-apparent. The energy of government 
was all expended in devising and adjusting the requisite bribes for an 
habitually obsequious, but occasionally refractory legislature, and in 
enacting police bills and Whiteboy acts for the people ; and the strength 
of the nation was wasting itself in aimless local insurgency. In the 
south, Whiteboys and Rightboys were wa^g a barbarous war of nature 
against a yet more barbarous state of society and law, indulging them- 
selves in the one last luxury which landlord and clerical exaction ha4 


left 'within reach of the most miserable peasantry linder the sun,* that of 
reyenging themselves on the nearest authors of Uieir misery, and getting 
their existence recognized by the Hght of midnight conflagrations ; and 
the north was already disorganised by the feuds of Peep-of-Day Boys 
and Defenders,! who carried on, during many successive years, a cruel 
war of mutual plunder and bloodshed, in which the worst crimes were 
stimulated by the most savage passions, and sanctified by the holiest 
names. The mind of CathoUc Ireland still lay prostrate under the de- 
bilitating operation of the accursed penal code ; some partial and mincing 
modifications of which (in 1778 and 1782) had not yet produced tiieb: 
natural result, of giving its victims a keener sensitiveness to the oppres- 
sions which remained. And the Protestant Liberal party gave no other 
signs of Ufe than perpetually introducing into Parliament certain small 
measures of reform, which were perpetually defeated, and instituting a 
paltry Whig Club, which made it a standing order to exclude all dis* 
ctission of the Catholic Question. The famous Whig toast-*" The Sote^^ 
reignty of the People" was interpreted by these reformers as meaning 
the eternal slavery of five men out of every six. 

Such was Irelajid, when the Fbench Revoltjtion burst like a thun- 
der-clap on Europe; uprooting a monarchy of fourteen centuries* growth, 
decomposing all old ideas, and loosening the foundations of all old 
institutions, proclaiming the Rights of Man as the basis and legitimating 
principle of all law and polity, and tiurning the long-deferred hopes of 
nations, no more into heart- sickness, but into eager and exulting joy. 
It was the most potent stimulant that has ever been administered to 

* Fitzgibbon (afterwards Lord Clare) is an imexceptionable authority on this point* 
In a debate of the Slst of January, 1787, he said that ** he was well acquainted with the 
prOTince of Munster, and that it teas impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the 
miserable tenantry of that proviftce, he knew that the unhappy tenantry were ground to 
jtowder by relentless landlords'* 

Grattan's speeches about this time, on the tithe grievance, show that there were 
grinders of the poor more *' relentless " even than the landlords. 

f Of these Peep-of-Day Boys and Defenders we shall have more to say further on, 
when the latter assumed a more permanent form, took a more definite and extensiTe 
organization, and became an element of the Rebellion of 1798. For the present, it may 
be enough to quote the following general account of these insurgent associations from 
1>r. Madden : — 

<< Vast numbers of Protestant tenants emigrated from Ireland, and chiefly from Ulster, 
to America, just before the commencement of the revolutionary war. Their place was 
chiefly supplied by Catholics, who appeared ready to work as labourers for lower wages, 
and to pay higher rents as tenants. The Protestants of Ulster felt themselves injured 
"by these new competitors in the labour and land-market, and they resolved to drive the 
Catholics back to Connaught. Armed bodies, under the name of * Peep-of-Day Boys,' 
attacked the houses of the (. atholics, ill-treated their persons, burned their houses, and 
wrecked their property. On the other hand, the Catholics formed an association for 
self-protection, under the name of * Defenders,' and the two parties engaged in a de- 
sultory and murderous warfare, in which it is obvious that the name of religion was a 
mere pretext, by which the parties disguised their real objects from otheis, and even 
from themselves. This social war excited a rancorous animosity between the lower 
ranks of Protestants and Catholics."-—" United Irishmen,*' vol. i., p. 29. ■ 

Of all these agrarian and peasant outbreaks, under the various names and forms, 
which they have from time to time assumed — White Boys, Right Boys, Oak Boys, 
Heart-of-Steel Boys, Peep-of-Day Boys, Defenders, Whitefeet^ Blackfeet, and Ribbon- 
men — ^the reader will find a full account in the valuable work of Mr. G. C. LewiSf " On 
Local Disturbances in Ireland, and the Irish Church Question." 

M XI8X0ST w ssx 

popttbtr aspiration tnd eflRsrt. In tint '^ era of hope/' it aeenied as if 
king-ridden and priest-ridden man had but to arise in the majeaty of 
nature, and all \ns lAiackles would drop off in the twinkling of an eye ; 
it was like the breakmg-up of a frost of centuries, and the commence^ 
ment of an eternal spring. Ireland could not long remain unmoved in the 
general waking^upof nations. The effect of the French Revolution on 
Ireland was rapid and decisive^ in rousing the different sections of the 
Irish people from the stupor into which they had sunk since the failure of 
the Volunteer Reform Convention of 1783. It attracted the sympathies 
and kindled the zeal of the Dissenter of the north, who was sdready, 
in virtue of his creed, more than half a republican ; it breathed new life 
into the Catholic of the south, whose long-standing religious predilections 
and political traditions had always laid him peculiarly open to French 
influence ; it was a practical demonstration that '* Popery " was no more 
necessarily connected with " Slavery," than with ** brass money and 
wooden shoes ;* it brought Protestant and Catholic together, into a union 
based on common rights and interests, and cemented by a common na^ 
tionality, and gave occasion to that Association of United Irishmen, 
whose history will, from this point, occupy the central place in our 

The influence of the French Revolution on Ireland appeared first in 
Belfast, the metropolis of northern dissent and liberaliffin. The politics 
of Belfast are an important element of Irish history at this epoch. This 
town had been the sotirce and centre of the Volunteer movement ; it was 
now again to take the lead in stirring and guiding the public mind of 
Ireland. We have already seen something of the character of these 
dissenting Protestants of the north. Scotch by descent, though thoroughly 
Irish by adoption ; Presbyterian by religion ; manufacturers and traders 
by occupation ; and, since the Volunteer time, citizen-soldiers by discipline 
and habit — the Belfast people were fully imbued with the speculative 
republicanism, and the practical democratic and reforming tendencies 
which naturally arise from such a combination. Such men never would 
be slaves, nor would they always remain bigots. With all the self- 
acting, self-relying spirit of Protestantism, they would be the first 
to rid themselves of its sectarian narrowness, and to subordinate the 
little Protestant interest to the great Irish interest. The men of Belfast 
had not participated in the blunder of 1783; and, now tiiat all its 
consequences had developed themselves, they would not be slack in piv- 
claiming and repairing it. The Belfast Volunteers had specially instructed 
their delegates to the Dublin Convention of that year (they were almost 
alone in thieir liberality) to support the right of Catholics to an equality 
with Protestants in all the franchises of Irishmen ; and nowhere were the 
results of the most pernicious error which then ruined the cause of 
reform, and broke the strength of reformers, better understood or more 
keenly felt than in this town. 

The political republicanism and religious Hberalism of Belfast remained 
unimpaired, during the years of disappointment that followed the epoch 
of the Volunteer struggle. In the summer of 1789, we find the good, 

* The old t^rotettant toast of the '* Pious and Immortal Memory" gbri&es Kiog 
William as a << Deliverer " from these low: mischiefs. 


I92Sa B^EBELIiIOK* 55 

uM ar tf W ^ *Whig Lord Chmrlem^t enumeTating, among << the causes of his^ 
^eeont^it," thepolitica ofhis Belfast friends :* and the politice of his Bel- 
fast friends were destined to occasion yet further discontent to good people 
of Liord Charlemont's way of thinking. As the revolution in France 
went on, startling men's imaginations and stimulating men's thoughts 
with its rapid succession of events, the citizens of Belfast resumed, with 
n«w hox>es, their long-suspended political activity. The Volunteer Asso- 
ciation had sunk into comparative insignificance. The secret of its fidlure 
had long since ceased to he a secret, except to a few incorrigible bigots, 
azid the leading men of the little world of Belfast politics saw that some new 
political organization was wanted, on a wider basis, and that the Irish Pro^ 
testant never could he free until ike Irish Catholic ceased to he a slave. \ 
Iji the summer of 1791 , the idea of such an organization was suggested by 
Samu:6I< Neilson, a Belfast woollen-draper, and member of one of the 
old Volunteer corps— one of the very best and truest of the many good and 
true men with whom the progress of this history will make us acquainted 
—to his friends and political coadjutors, Henry Joy M*Cracken and Thomas 
Russell. Parliamentary reform and Catholic emsmcipation were to be the 
foundation principles of the new association — Irishmen, as Irishmen, with- 
out distinction of creed, its members. Neilson said, ^' Our efforts for 
reform hitherto have been ineffectual, and they deserved to he so , for they 
have heen selfish and unjusty as not including the rights of the Catholics 
in the claims we put forrvard for ourselves '''\ The suggestion did not 
long remain inoperative. In the month of September in this year, Theo- 
bald WoirE Tone (an intimate friend of Thomas Russell's), then a young 
barrister without briefs and without law, but with a clear head and a warm 
Irish heart, published, under the signature of " A Northern Whig," a pam- 
phlet entitled, "An Argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland," which 
had a powerAil effect on the public mind, especially among the northern 
Dissenters, against whose prejudices the argument was mainly pointed. 
The precise position of the question at this time, and the objects cf the 
more enlightened of the popular leaders, appear from what Tone says in 
connection with this pubhcation : — 

** The Catholic question was, at this period, beginning to attract public notice ; and 
the Belfast Volunteers, on some public occasion (I know not precisely what) wished to 
come forward with a declaration in its favour. For this purpose, Russell, who by this 
time was entirely in their confidence, wrote to me to draw up and transmit to him such 
a declaration as I thought proper, which I accordingly did. A meeting of the corps was 
held in consequence, but an opposition unexpectedly arising to a part of the declaration 
which alluded directly to the Catholic claims, that passage was, for the sake of unani- 
mity, withdrawn for the present, and the declaration then passed unanimously. Russell 
wrote me an account of all this, and it immediately set me thinking more seriously than 
I had yet done upon the state of Ireland. I soon formed my theory, and on that theory 
hare unvaryingly acted ever since. 

'*To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to Irtak the eortnectum withBnff* 
Umd(th$ nwer^ilinji source (^ all owrpolUital evils J, and to assert the independence olmy 
country — these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the me^ 
mory of aUpaU distensi$ns, and to 9vhtitui$ the common natne of Jrishman in place (f th% de- 

♦ See his letter to Dr. Halliday— -Hardy's " life of the Bwrl of Charlemont,^* vol. ii,, 
p. 191. 
t Graitan. 
X Madden's ** XTuited IrUhmen/' Scc<md Series, vol. i,, p. 79* 


nbminationi of Proietiant, CathoUe, and DUtettter — these were my meantt T6 e&CfOttte ' 
such great objecta, I reviewed the three principal sects. The Protestants I despaired of , 
from the outset, for obvious reasons. Already in possession, by an unjust monopoly, of 
the whole power and patronage of the country, it was not to be supposed they would 
ever concur in measures, the certain tendency of which must be to lessen their influence 
as a party, how much soever the nation might gain. To the Catholics I thought it un- 
necessary to address myself, because that, as no change could make their political situa- 
tion worse, I reckoned upon their support to a certainty ; besides, they had already be- 
gun to manifest a strong sense of their wrongs and oppressions ; and, finally, I well knew 
that, however it might be disguised or suppressed, there existed in the breast of eveiy 
Irish Catholic an inextirpable abhorrence of the English name and power. There re- 
mained only the Dissenters, whom I knew to be patriotic and enlightened; however, - 
the recent events at Belfast had shown me that all prejudice was not yet entirely removed 
from their minds. I sat down accordingly, and wrote a pamphlet addressed to the Dis- 
senters, which I entitled * An Argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland,' the object 
of which was to convince them that they and the Catholics had but one common inte* 
rest and one common enemy; that the depression and slavery of Ireland were produced' 
and perpetuated by the divisions existing between them, and that consequently, to assert- 
the independence of their country and their own individual liberties, it was necessary to 
forget all former feuds, to consolidate the entire strength of the whole nation, and to 
fo rm for the future but one people. These principles I supported by the best arguments 
which suggested themselves to me, and particularly by demonstrating that the cause of ■ 
the failure of all former efforts, and more especially of the Volunteer Convention in 1783y 
was the uxijust neglect of the claims of their Catholic brethren.*' * 

The Argument was well timed and aimed, and met with considerable suc- 
cess. It was widely circulated by the Belfast people all through the north 
of Ireland, and effectually prepared the way for that union of Irishmen, the 
idea of which had been already conceived by some of their best men. The i 
pamphlet had not been published a month, when Tone received an invita- ^ 
tion from Samuel Neilson and others of the Belfast leaders, to pay them a ] 
visit with his friend Russell, and assist in the formation of the first United ' 

Irish Club. The invitation was accepted ; and the result was that, in the 
course of a stay of about three weeks, industriously and successfully 
employed in political propagandism public and private,! Tone and his coad- 
jutars organised the first Society of United Irishmen (October 18, 
1791) on the basis of the following resolutions: — 

I. — " That the weigiit of English influence in the government of this country is so 
great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain tliat j 

balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of out 

II. — " That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by 
A COm^pleU &iid TdidlcaX reform of the represerUation of the people in parliament. I 

III. — " That «• reform is practicable, efficacious, or Just, which shall not include IrishhbM ' 


The example of Belfast was promptly followed by the metropolis. On 
the completion of his northern mission, Tone returned to Dublin, and 
put himself in communication with the Protestant leaders of the populai* 
cause there; and on the 9th of November, 1791, a Dublin Society of 

* " Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone, written by himself," vol. i, pp. 64-66. 

f For the particulars of which, see the selections from his diary appended to his 
Memoirs. We do not know more delightful reading anywhere than these journals of 
Tone ; so truthful and life-like they are — such a store of valuable historic data and sa^ 
gacious political remark, dashed with the best possible Irish fun and absurdity. The^ i 

show us that which no history can show fully, and which few historians trouble them- i 

selves to show at all — that under-current of opinion and feeling in every-day private 

Fmted Irishmen was constituted, with the Honourable Simon Butler for 
its first chairman, and James Napper Tandy for its first secretary. ^ The 
Belfast resolutions were adopted as the basis of the Society's proceed- 
ings, with the addition of the following test to be subscribed by every 
member on admission :— 

" I, A. B., in the presence of God, do pledge myself to my country that I y/Hl use all 
iliy abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adeqttaie repretmtatum of 
t)ie Irish nation in parliament; and, as a means of absolute and immediate necessity in the 
establishment of this chief good of Ireland, I will endeavour, as much as lies in my 
ability, to forward a brotherhood of affectiouy an identity of interests, a communion of rights, 
and an union of power, ▲mono irishmen of all religious persuasions, without 
which every reform in parliament must be partial, not national, inadequate to the wants, 
delusive to the wishes, and insufficient for the freedom and happiness of this country." 

Thus began that series of renewed popular efforts for self-emancipa- 
tion which constitutes the especial subject of our present history. The 
formation of these United Irish Societies opened a new epoch in the his- 
tory of Ireland. The mistake of 1783 was now discovered ; and strong 
minds and brave hearts were banded for its undoing. Parliamentary in- 
dependence without parliamentary reform had turned out a delusion; 
parliamentary reform without Catholic Emancipation had been found an 
-impossibility, and was felt to ,be an absurdity. The work in which the 
Volunteers had failed was now to be attempted again, by new men on new 
principles — the stone which those builders had ignominiously rejected 
being made the head of the comer. 

The United Irishmen of 1791, though they ultimately produced, are 
not to be confounded with the United Irishmen of 1798. The two so- 
cieties were widely different in their respective constitutions, objects^ 
and modes of proceeding — the latter having been organized only when 
the former was broken up by violent government interference. The 
United Irishmen of 1798, as we shall subsequently find, were a secret 
society, with separation from England and Republican government for 
their end, and armed rebellion, with French aid, for their means. The 
United Irishmen of 1791 looked not beyond the limits of the constitu- 

Hfe, of which public opinion and public events are but the expression and result. The 
following illustrates the kind of difficulty that beset Tone's mission as a preacher of union 
asnong Irishmen of all sects and creeds : — 

*< October 25, 1791 .—.Dinner at M*Tier's; Waddel Cunningham, Holmes, Dr. Bruce 
&c. A furious battle, which lasted two hours, on the Catholic question; as usual, neithew 
party convinced. Teased with the liberality of people agreeing in the principle, but doubting 
as to the expediency. Bruce, an intolerant high priest, argued sometimes strongly, some- 
times unfairly ; embarrassed the question by distinctions, and mixing things in their 
a&ture separate. We brought him at last to state his definite objection to the immediate 
emancipation of the Roman Catholics. His ideas are — * let. Danger to true religion^ 
inasmuch as the Roman Catholics would, if emancipated, establish an inquisition. 2nd. 
Danger to property, by reviving the Court of Claims, and admitting any evidence to 
substantiate Catholic titles. 3rd. Danger, generally, of throwing the power into their 
hands, which would make this a Catholic Government, incapable of enjoying or extend- 
ing liberty!' Many other wild notions, which he afterwards gave up, but these three 
lie repeated again and again as his creed." — " Memoirs," vol. ii., p. 384. 

Of the incipient liberalism of the Belfast trading democracy, we have the following 
father comical indication : — 

"October 14.— Curious discourse with a hair-dresscr (one Taylor), who has had two 
children christened by the priest, though he is himself a Dissenter, merely with a wish to blend 
the sects V* 

Sa BX8T0BT 07 IBB 

tkm—- sought only an bo&eBt government by King, Lords, and Comr 
moos: tl^ir aim was ^ tax equal and just' representation of the whole 
people in parliament," their proceedings were open and legal, and the 
responsibility of all that followed rested with the wicked government which 
made the best men in Ireland rebels and ''traitors.'* It is true that 
Theobald Wolfe Tone,* and probably others of the United Irish leader^*— 
in Belfast especially-^were, from the first, prepared to be driven by the 
government beyond all limits of law and c(»istitution, and contemplated the 
most extreme possibifities without any violent repugnance. But repuWic- 
anism and separation were not at this time, nor until long afterwards, the 
design, either avowed or unavowed, of the United Irish Societies. Both 
the language of their various resolutions and addresses, and the whole 
spirit of their public acts, indicate that their original pm-pose was as 
strictly constitutional as their means were peaceful, legal, and open. It 
was the sedition of the government that made the United Irishmen 

Here, for the present, we must leave the new Societies of United Irish- 
men debating, resolving, addressing, corresponding, and otherwise agi- 
tating — their spirit rising, their numbers multiplying, their political con- 
sequence increasing, day by day : the Catholics, in particular, says their 
founder, " flocking in by crowds" — and see what was going forward the 
while among the poor degraded "Papists." The ideas and events of the 
French revolution — ^in its earKer stages, that is, before it had assumed a 
decidedly anti- ecclesiastical character — had a powerful effect on the Catho- 
lic people of Ireland ; awakening a spirit of political earnestness and inde- 
pendence, far beyond what might have been expected from the victims of 
the penal code. This effect first showed itself in the changed tone of the 
Catholie General Committee. So far back as about the year 1770, this 
Catholic General Committe, a body composed of their bishops, nobility, 
and the leading Catholic merchants and traders resident in Dublin, had 
been formed for the purpose of obtaining from government the repeal of a 
certain obnoxious Catholic tax, called quarterage; and the government, 
finding the committee on some occasions a convenient medium of commu- 
nication with the Catholic body, connived at its continued existence. Po- 
litical danger to be apprehended from it there was, assuredly, at that time, 
none. Its agitation was of the most innocent sort imaginable. The poor 
creatures were brought so low by a century of penal code, that they were 
** happy," as Tone tells us, " in being allowed to go up to the Castle with 
an abominably slavish address to each successive Viceroy, of which, more- 

* As early as 1790, Tone's opinions and aspirations went the length of an entire sew 
ventnce of the English connection. He says in his autobiography, speaking of this 
period, — 

■ ** I made speedily what was to me a great discovery, though I migh^ have found it in 
Swift and Molyneuz — namely, thai the influence of £nfflatid was the radical vice of our 
government, and, consequently, that Ireland would never be either free, prosperous, or 
i^^PPy* until she was independent ; and that independence was unattainable whilst the 
connection with England existed." — " Memoirs," vol. i., p. 34. 

He avows the same opinion in a letter to his friend Russell, written during this year, 
which afterwards fell into the hands of government. His Belfast Diary in 1791, 
shows that others besides himself were rapidly preparing for the ultimatum of a war of 


arer, until the accession of tbe Buke of Portland^ in 1782, so little notice 
was taken^ that bis Grace ^ras the first who condescended to give them an 
answer ; and indeed, for above twenty years, the sole business of the 
General Conunittee was to pr^are and deUver in these records of their 
depression." All this was now about to be changed* A new spirit had 
for some time been working among them, the growth of commercial in- 
dustry and Volunteer politics, which the events of the Continent stimulated 
into a more vigorous life and a hardier self-assertion^ Within the walls of 
the Catholic Committee*room, as elsewhere in Europe, a sturdy democracy 
arose (well headed by one John Keogh), of new men with new ideas, who 
were not afraid, on occasion, of outvoting lords and bishops. 

Occasion was not long wanting. In December, 1791, the more turbu- 
lent members of this Catholic General Conmiittee, emboldened by the 
right band of fellowship held out to them by the northern and metropo- 
litan United Irishmen, determined on an immediate application to parHa- 
ment for a repeal of the penal code.* It was necessary, however, first of 
all, to repeal the efiects of that code on the "leading and respectable" 
members of their own body. Their peers, prelates and gentry threw 
every possible difficulty in their way ; and, on its being decided by a large 
majority that parliament should be petitioned, these peers, prelates and 
respectable, men had the infinite meanness to present an humble and duti« 
fill address to the Lord Lieutenant, signed by sixty-eight great Catholic 
names, expressing the most devoted attachment to the law and constitu- 
tion wbich did not recognise the fact of their existence and let them breathe 
only on connivance ^ and to assure his Excellency, by« newspaper adver- 
tis^nent, that they did not wish to " embarrass the government" by asking 
for the commonest rights of citizenship. From this time. Lord Kenmare 
and the sixty-eight addressers seceded from the General Committee, and 
left the Catholic democracy to fight their battle alone. But the Catholic 
democracy were very rapidly learning how to fight their battle alone. In 
the Catholic Committee-room, as in the French Hall of National Assembly, 
the Third Estate was none the weaker for the loss of the other two. 

The session of 1 792 opened with a significant indication of the feeling 
of the government, that the new union of Irishmen of all sects and deno- 
minations was not conducive to the stability of the existing order of things, 
and was, if possible, to be severed by the early conciliation of the more 
numerous and less obtrusive of the two contracting parties. On the 25th 
of January, Sir Hercules Langrishe, a government member, moved (and 
was seconded by Mr. Secretary Hobart) a string of resolutions in £a.vour of 

* In the beginning of this year the committee had resolred* after long discussion and 
mtich altercation, and at the expense of a quarrel with Lords Fingall and Kenmare and 
other Catholics of ** great respectability," on the wonderfully daring measure of apply- 
ing to parliament, '* with all humility, j^ such rdirfM the wisdom and Justice of parliament 
might grant!" Their lordships and the gentlemen of great respectabUity would have no- 
thing to do with so seditious a proceeding, especially as they apprehended that some of 
the committee had republican correspondents and sympathisers in the north. They ac- 
cordingly made haste to save their own characters for loyalty, by presenting a separate 
address to the Lord Lieutenant, expressive of their entire deference to government, ^ in 
whose wisdom they reposed the fullest confidence."— See Hardy's <' Life of Lord Charle* 
mont," vol. ii., p. 262. 

The humble petition of the committee, which, in &ct, asked/or nothing^ they could not 
find a single member of the legislature willing to present* 


Catholic concession, prefaced by some side-blows at " democracy ;*' tie 
purport of which was, to admit Catholics to the profession and practice of 
the law, to remove all existing restraints on Catholic education, to permit 
intermarriages between Protestants and Catholics (under penalty, however, 
of disqualification for every Protestant taking the benefit of the permission), 
and to remove certain restraints and disabilities bearing on Catholic in- 
dustry. The measure of course passed, but it did not answer the purpose 
of its promoters. In place of silencing complaint, it stimulated louder com- 
plaints and emboldened larger demands than ever. On the 1 8th of February, 
while Sir Hercules Langrishe's bill was moving quietly through the usual 
parliamentary stages, the legislature were shocked and insulted by the 
presentation of a petition from the Catholics of Dublin, humbly praying for 
the ELECTIVE FBANCHisE. This was too much for Protestant flesh and 
blood to bear. An angry debate ensued, in which the Catholic Committee 
in general, and the democratic leaders of it in particular, were belaboured 
wiSi the most virulent invective. They were stigmatised as " a rabble of 
obscure porter-drinking mechanics, without property, pretensions, or in- 
fluence, who met in holes and comers, and fancied themselves the repre- 
sentatives of the Catholic body, which disavowed and despised them." The 
sixty- eight addressers of the December previous were lauded to the skies 
for their " independence and respectability" — t?iei/ were the true represen- 
tatives of the Catholics of Ireland, and not the committee from whom they 
had seceded. At last, on the motion of Mr. David Latouche, the petition 
was ordered, by a majority of about ten to one, to be removed from the ' 
table of the house Itnd bejegted. A similar fate befel, on the same occa- 
sion, a pro-Catholic petition from a public meeting of the people of Belfast; 
and thus the question of the Catholic Elective Franchise was " set at rest** 
—for that night only. 

It would have been better for the interests of the Protestant ascendency 
if this Catholic petition of February, 1792, had been allowed lo lie quietly 
on the table. The denial of the representative character of the Catholic 
General Committee raised a serious question, and had serious consequences. 
It was quite true, in point of fact, that the committee did not, otherwise 
than virtually, represent the Catholic people of Ireland ; they were a self- 
appointed body; but, when the fact was thus brought home to their con- 
science, instead of sinking under the charge, they manfully rose above it, 
by resolving, without loss of time, to repair the alleged and confessed 
defect in their title, and make the virtual representation actual. As it 
had been charged against them that they did not speak the sense of the 
general body of Irish Catholics, they determined forthwith — ^not that they 
would cease from speaking — ^but that they would take out, in due form 
and with the least possible delay, a title to speak more loudly than ever. 
The Catholic Committe appealed now to the Catholic people. They 
published (in March, 1792) a regular business-like plan of delegation^ 
through primary and secondary electoral assemblies, by which every parish, 
town, and county, should be actually and efl*ectually represented, and the . 
opinions, wants, and wishes — the intellectual, moral, and social strength 
of the entire Catholic population of Ireland, be concentrated in one focal 
point. This plan Theobald Wolfe Tone was appointed to carry into effect, 
as secretary to the General Committee. 

The ascendency men were taken altogether by surprise at this out- 


break o£ energy and courage from the degraded, helot Catholic people, 
who had never before been a people. The publication of this plan of 
delegation was the signal for such an agitation and counter-agitation as 
Ireland had not yet seen. In the counties, the Protestant grand juries— 
in the towns, the Protestant corporatiofls — met, and talked, and resolved, 
furiously and frantically, in that life-and-fortune style which must be so 
familiar to the ears of our senior readers.* Sedition, conspiracy, rebellion, 
treason — wicked and daring attempt— popish congress, popish democracy — • 
our present valuable constitution in church and state— our present in- 
valuable constitution in church and state; these and the like were the 
flowers of rhetoric with which the men of the ascendency, aided by such 
high government functionaries as the Speaker of the House of Commons 
and the Lord Chancellor, lavishly decorated their conservative Protestant 
oratory. The Castle, too, was busy the while intriguing with the Catholic 
bishops and clergy, and doing its best, by speaking the poor creatures fair, 
to induce them to oppose the terrible measures of the '* primary and 
secondary electoral assemblies."! But it was all in vain ; the Catholic 
body had got a new soul, and they were not to be soon frightened : — 

*' At first," Bays Tone, '' we were like young soldiers, a little stunned with the noise, 
but after a few rounds we begin to look about us, and, seeing nobody drop with all this 
furious cannonade, we took courage and determined to return the fire. In consequence, 
wherever there was a meeting of the 'Protestant Ascendancy,' which was the title 
assumed by that party (and a very impudent one it was), we took care it should be 
followed by a meeting of the Catholics, who spoke as loud and louder than their adrer- 
sariea; and as we had the right clearly on our side, we fouttd no great difficult]^ 
in silencing the enemy on this quarter. The Catholics, likewise, took care, at the same 
time that they branded their enemies, to mark their gratitude to their friends, who were 
daily increasing, and especially to the people of Belfost, between whom and themselres 
the union was now completely established."} 

• On the 2nd of December, 1792 (the elections being all completed), the 
Catholic Convention commenced its sittings in Taylor's Hall, Back 
Lane, Dublin (in the same room in which King James's Parliament had 
sat at the time of the revolution), under the cognomen, derisively applied 
by the ascendency people, of the Sack Lane Parliament. 

* Plowden has preserved some specimens of this grand jury and corporation eloquence 
in his '* Historical Review," vol. ii., pp. 374-376. The Corporation of Dublin unani- 
mously resolved, That they would support the Protestant ascendancy with their " lives 
and fortunes;" and that the said Protestant ascendency consisted in "a Protestant king 
of Ireland — a Protestant parliament — Protestant electors and government — Protestant 
magistrates — Protestant army and revenue ; " they omitted Protestant taxation. The 
whole to be kept together by " connexion with the Protestant realm of Great Britain." 

t The Catholic prelates and clergy of that day were very timid and somewhat slippery 
politicians, open both to cajolery and menace. The programme of their policy seems 
to have been — any thing for a quiet l\fe. Tone repeatedly expresses his abomination of the 
whole clerical genus in both of its species of Popish and Protestant. (See his Journals, 
passim,) This zealous pacificator appears to have had as much trouble with the Catholic 
priesthood as with those semi-liberal theologians of the north who ** agreed in the prin- 
ciple, but doubted as to the expediency." On the 15th of August, this year, he 
journalises the following note of a conversation with a liberal dissenting minister of the 
name of Birch: — 

' " He thinks what I fear is true, that the Catholic clergymen are had friends to liberty. 
The priest of SaintfUld preached against United Irishmen, 9nd exhorted his people not to 
join such clubs, on which he was immediately rebuked in the chapel by one of his con- ^ 
gregation." — " Memoirs," vol. ii., p. 398. 

X " Memoirs," vol. i., p. 88, 

62 HI8TCBT 07 TH£ 

Of this Back Lane Parliament vre sball have more to say in the next 
chapter. Meanwhile, events were going forward elsewhere, of considerably 
more consequenee to ^t» late of the Irish Catholics than any debates and 
resolutions, either of Protestant grand juries or of Catholic General Com- 
mittees. While the electicms were in progress, Theobald Wolfe Tone, 
we obsOTve, jots in Ins diaiy — 

" Hear that the Duke of Brunswick has defeated the Fjreach under Dumouf ier, and 
cut the whole armj in pieces. Scpe iti$a lie" 

If it had not turned out to be a lie, the sittings of the new Catholic 
Convention would have been of brief duration and small result 





It did turn out to be a ** lie," about the Duke of Brunswick having de* 
feated Dumourier and the French. Before the Catholic elections were 
over, our zealous Secretary jots again — 

" October 11. — The story of Dumourier a great lie ! Huzza ! huzza ! ! Brunswick and 
hui army dying of the flux and running out of France, with Dumourier pursuing him — 
Huua 1 if the French had been heaten, it wtu cfU over with v«. AU safe now lor (his 
campaign — Huzza !" 

That the Catholics and their secretary had good reason for huzzaing at 
the successes of republican France, we shall see better as we proceed. For 
the present we must go back a few months, and examine what was doing 
among the new Societies of United Irishmen-— how they addressed, and re- 
solved, and agitated, and with what result ; and especially how they pros- 
pered in the good work of forwarding " a brotherhood of affection, an 
identity of interests, a commmiion of rights, and a union of power, among 
Irishmen of all religious persuasions." 

The United Irish Societies were not three months in existence without 
^ving signs of a zeal and courage which showed that a new power was at 
work in the politics of Ireland. Their first conflict with the duly-constituted 
authorities was a clear success. In the month of February, 1792, the SoU* 
citor-General (Toler) having, in his place in the House of Commons, spoken 
with exceeding disrespect of the new conspiracy of demagogues and agi- 
tators, James Napper Tandy — formerly of the I^wrtj Brigade of Vo- 
lunteer Artillery, now secretary to the Dublin Society of United Irishmen^- 
conceived himself called upon to vindicate the honour and loyalty of tht 
patriots, by challenging the Solicitor-General. Thereupon, the Scdidtor- 
General complained to the House of a breach of privilege, and Tandy, was 
ordered to be taken into custody by the serjeant-at-arms, and brought to 


"flie bar of tlie House. The arrest was accordingly made fartbwit^, at 
Tandy's house, by three of the Commons' messengers ; but the United 
Irish secretary, who seems to have had a most happy genius for escaping, 
inTalaafole in such troubled times (it brought him safe at last, through a 
thousand hair-breadth perils, to a quiet death in his bed), twice eluded the 
Tigilance of his captors, and defeated the wrath of the House. The escape 
was adjudged to be an aggravation of the first offence, and the irritated 
leguslators followed up strong resolutions against the contumacious United 
IziBhinan with an address to the Lord Lieutenant, praying that his "Excel" 
lency would issue a proclamation, backed with a reward, for a third and 
final capture of Mr. Tandy. The proclamation was issued accordingly^ 
and the ^nrhole revenue and police force of Ireland were enjoined to be oa 
the alert, that no man answering to the govemment description of his per- 
Mm fidiould leave the kingdom. Still, Mr. Tandy was nowhere to be foimd. 
Th& United Irish Society, beiiig thus conounitted, through their officer and 
representative, with the House of Commons and the Castle, on a question 
of privilege and prerogative, had now a good opportunity for making a cha- 
racter with the public and trying their strength with the government. The 
further progress of the affair, which, as the first of its kind, has an interest 
that vine shall not find it necessary to attach to every similar collision of . 
^ sedition" with authority, is thus related by Tone :— 

^ ** thi^deT these circumstances, I cast my eyes on Abchibau) Hamilton Rowak, a 
4iBtingui8hed member of the Society, whose many idrtues, public and private, had set 
his name above the reach of even the maievolence of party ; whose situation in life was 
of the most respectable rank, if rank be indeed respectable ; and, above all, whose 
persoDal courage was not to be shaken, — ^a circumstance, in the actual situation of affairs, 
of the last importance. To Rowan, therefore, I applied ; I showed him that the current 
of publie opinion was rather setting against us in this business, and that it was neces* 
■ary some of us should step forward and expose ourselves, at all risks, to show the House 
of Commons and the nation at large that we were not to be intimidated, or put down 
80 easily. I offered, if he would take the chair, that I would, with the Society's permis- 
sion, act as secretary, and that we would give our signatures to such publications as 
circumstances might render necessary. Rowan instantly agreed ; and accordingly, on 
the next night of meeting, he was chosen chairman, and I pro-secretary in the absence 
of Tandy ; and the Society having agreed to the resolutions proposed (which were worded 
in a manner very offensive to the dignity of the House of Commons, and in fact amounted 
to a challenge of their authority,) we inserted them in all the newspapers, and printed 
5,000 copies with our names affixed. 

*' The leastthat Rowan and I expected in consequence of this step, which, under the cir* 
cirmstagces, was, I must say, rather a bold one, was to be conunitted to Newgate for 
breach of privilege, and perhaps exposed to personal discussions with some of the 
members of the House of Commons ; for he proposed, and I agreed, that, if any dis- 
respectful language was applied to either of us, in any debate which might arise on 
the business, we would attack the person, whoever he might be, immediately, and oblige 
him eiUier to recant his words, or give battle. All our determination, however, came to 
nothing. The House of Commons, either content with their victory over Tandy, who 
was obliged to conceal himself for some time, or not thinking Rowan and myself objects 
sufficiency important to attract their notice ; or perhaps, which I rather believe, not 
wishing just then to embroil themselves with a man of Rowan's firmness and courage, 
(not to speak of his great and justly-merited popularity,) took no notice whatsoever of 
our resolutions, and, in this manner, he and I had the good fortune, and, I may say, the 
merit, to rescue the Society from a situation of considerable difficulty, without any 
actual suffering, though certainly with some personal hazard on our part. We had- 
likewise the satisfaction to see the Society, instead of losing ground, rise rapidly in public 
opinion, by its firmness on ihe occaaon. Shortly after, on the last day of the session^ 
tiady appeared in public, and was taken into custody, the whole Society attending him 
in a body to the House of Oonuoons; he was ordesBd b^ the Bpeaker to be committed to 


Newgate^ whither lie was conreyed, the Society attending him as before ; and the Par* 
liament being prorogued in half an hour alter, he was liberated immediately, and escorted I 
in triumph to his own house." - 

A further triumph awaited the dexterous and dauntless secretary, and 
raised still higher the spirit and influence of the Association. Tandy was 
prosecuted by order of the House of Commons, for the alleged breach of 
privilege, and acquitted by a Dublin jury. 

What thoughts were now astir in Irishmen's minds, appeared in a curious 
legal case raised by this eccentric and daring agitator (whose " original 
portrait"* gives all the features of what the Scotch call a dour chiel)^ in 
consequence of this business with the House of Commons. Tandy brought 
a series of actions-at-law against the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor, 
and every member of the Privy Council who had signed the proclamation 
for his arrest, on the ground that they had KO i^egal authobitt for 
that or any other act of government whatever ; their appointments being 
under the great seal, not of the kingdom of Ireland, but of Great Bri* 
tain. This point he managed to keep before the public, by one suit 
kfler another, for some six months; during which period the position 
was pertinaciously maintained (quite justly, we conceive, according to 
the then existing constitution of the kingdom of Ireland, as settled in 
1782) by his coimsel, Simon Butler and Thomas Addis £mmet, that, as 
Ireland was an independent kingdom, the great seal of England could not 
be recognised in an Irish court of law. The court was horrified at the 
scandal ; threatened the attorney who had dared to sign the pleadings 
with attachment for contempt ; struck the words, again and again, out of 
the record, as impertinent and scandalous ; refused, again and again, to 
suffer the case to be argued ; and it was not until the public mind had 
been thoroughly saturated with the " poison" of a doctrine which dis- 
owned the legality of the whole government of Ireland for the ten preceding 
years, that the point was allowed to be discussed, and set at rest (26th 
November,) by a short and angry judicial dictum. Tandy failed in form, 
but he succeeded in effect ; reviving in the popular mind the old feeling of 
1 783, against the encroachments of Great Britain on the independence of 

While the United Irishmen were thus establishing themselves in public 
estimation, by successful collision with the House of Commons and the 
government, they were not idle in their great work of estabfishing union 
and brotherhood between the two religious sections of the people. They 
addressed themselves, with an excellent judgment and abundant zeal, to the 
task of healing those sectarian and party animosities which had broken the 
strength and ruined the prospects of Ireland in 1783, and uniting the 
whole moral and physical force of the Irish people in one dense mass of 
opposition to British influence. During the summer of 1792, their chair- 
man, Simon Butler, by order of the Dublin Society, drew up and published 
a "Digest of the Penal Code," enumerating, in all their revolting details, 
the barbarisms of that abominable system of legislative iniquity and reli- 
gious rancour, in a way to arouse among the Catholics an indignation 

* See Dr. Madden's ** United Irishmen," Second Series, vol. IL 
t See a full account of this extraordinary business in the '* I^ceedin^ of the Society 
of United Irishmen of Dublin," Philadelphia, 1796, pp. 71-127. 


which, till then, they had been too thoroughly enslaved and broken-spirited 
to be capable of feeling — and to gain over to the cause of emancipation all 
that was just, generous, and rational in the mind of Protestant Ireland. 
No single thing contributed more powerfully to cement the union of Irish- 
men than this publication, which emboldeneid the Catholics to raise their 
tone of demand, by assuring them of an adequate amount of Protestant 
sympathy and co-operation, and did much to shame down bigotry (wherever 
it was capable of shame) by holding up the mirror to its base and wicked : 
nature. It was this " Digest of the Penal Code," and the assurance of . 
'Protestant support of which it was a pledge, that carried the Catholics 
through that storm of the grand-jury life-and-fortune resolutions which we 
spoke of in the last chapter, and nerved them for the exertions which we : 
^lall presently record in this.* 

The business of uniting Irishmen of all parties and persuasions was at- 
tended, however, with difficulties of a kind which legal digests were alto- 
gether insufficient to cope with. Union of Irishmen there could not be, to - 
any effectual purpose of lasting political good, while the physical and moral 
strength of large masses of the people was wasting itself in an aimless 
partisan warfare. Already were Irish agitators beginning to learn that - 
lesson, the full theory and practice of which have only been acquired in our 
own day, under the tuition of the man whose historical cognomen will pro- 
bably be The Agitatok — that local outrage must cease, before efficient 
general agitation can begin. While the war of the Peep-of-Bay B&ys and 
Defenders went on. Societies of United Irishmen might address and resolve 
to all eternity, without bending or breaking the will of the government. It 
was a matter, therefore, of the first necessity to the agitators, to heal the . 
Peep-of-Day Boy and Defender feuds. Ever since the year 1785, these . 
two factions had been increasing in numbers, in ferocity, and in organisa- 
tion. In its commencement, an agrarian quarrel — a feud of rival peasants 
and farmers, under-selling and over-bidding one another in the labour 
and land market ; in its progress, a religious quarrel — the one party hap- . 
pening to be Protestant, and the other happening to be Catholic — this bu« 
aness of the Peep-of-Day Boys and Defenders had grown, by this time, to ' 
be a little civil war, of inveterate malignity and formidable extent. It had 
spread beyond the county of Armagh, its original seat, into Down, Louth, * 

* Ab we have more than once alluded to certain modifications of the Penal Code 
which had taken place In previous years, we may here put before the reader the condi- 
tien in which — all modifications notwithstanding — the Irish Catholic stood before the < 
law, 80 late as the close of the year 1792. We give the following summary from Simon • 
Butler's " Digest," quoted by Plowden : — 

*' Such is the situation of three millions of good and faithful subjects in their native 
had. Excluded from every trust, honour, or emolument of the state, civil or military ; 
excluded from all the benefits of the constitution in all its parts ; excluded from all coi^ ' 
porate rights and immunities; expelled from grand juries, restrained in petit juries; ' 
excluded from every direction, from every trust, from every incorporated society, from*, 
every establishment, occasional or fixed, instituted for public defence, public police, pub« 
lie morals, or public convenience — ^from the Bench, from the Bank, from the Exchange, ; 
from the University, from the College of Physicians — from what are they not excluded? ' 
Ihere is no institution which the wit of man has invented, or the progress of society 
produced, which private charity or public munificence has founded for the advancement of 
education, learning, and good arts, for the pexmanent relief of age, infirmity, or misfortune, 
from the Buperintendence of which, and, in all cases where common charity would per« 
^t, from the enjoyment of which, the legislature has not taken care to exclude the . 
Catl^olics of Ireland." 


6$ HI9S0BT 09 THB 

Meath, and Garan, wiih little inteileraiee from ihe gentry or the go'rem- 
meitt, who appear to have been rather pleased than otherwise with a stete 
oftMngs which kept up popular disunion, and afforded an ever-ready pi«» 
text for an kinds of ^* strong" measures. The original cause of quarrel 
wlw fatally aggrarated l^ that part of the Penal Code which prohibited 
" Papists" from bearing arms in their own defence. Of this law the Fre^ 
testants in the disturbed districts took advantage, by paying their antago- 
nists very early domiciliary visits, to search fw arms (whence thdr imnae 
of Peep-of-Day Boys), in which visits they were in the habit of commitfxng' 
the cruellest and most insulting outrages. Heaven help the poor Papists I 
They must have arms, or they were not safe in their own houses (being 
BtMl unrecognised by the protective power of law) ; and yet their having 
arms was an act of insurrection — ^the armed Papist was a rebel ^M& 
faeto. The dilemma may seem embarrassing to our bgic ; but human 
nature, which is the same in Irish Papists as in the rest of us, solved k 
without much ado. The Papists did arm — they did become rebels to the 
law, rather than see their houses plundered, their chapels wrecked, ^tiear 
wives and daughters insulted. They associated as Defekdeks ;*' asftjMV 
words to become aggressors, and finally to be absorbed in the vortex of (he 

* As the general character of Defenderism is of interest to onr historj, from its con- 
neadon with subsequent political events, in which it became an important element^ we 
subjoin (from Plowden) the oath and rules of the Defender Association, as they stood 
in. the year 1789 ;.^ 

«* The Oath. 

*^I, A. B.,' of my own free will and accord, do swear to be true to one another, wiff as- 
sist one another abroad and at home ; and there are none to be admitted without the con- 
sent of the committee appointed by the said body ; and they must in all things be^under 
subjection to the said committee, in all thzngs tiiat are lawful, and not otherwise* Ansk 
allwords and signs to be kept secret from all that are not concerned, or forfeit this oath. 
And we are to meet once a month, where the committee thinks proper, and we are 
tb' spend what is agreeable to the company. And any person giving a lawful reason fijr 
hi9 absence, he is not to be under censure. And all persons entering must be under aH 
rules and regulations appointed by the said committee. And as in our former oath 
w^ ar« bound to his Majesty, King George III., and his successors to the crown, so for 
this present year, 1789, we promise faithfully the same obedience, and also, while we 
live, subject to the same government. 

" The Rules to be observed, 

'* 1. There is no Defender to strike one another, upon any account ; or, tf they do, to 
bo excluded the company as long- as the committee thinks proper. 3. There ia no per- 
son to come to the monthly meeting drunk ; or, if they do, to pay sixpence, and to bo 
exeloded for three months. 3. There ia no person on any account to swear or speak loud 
in the company ; and for every oath they are to pay what the committee thinks propex. 
4. There is no person that formerly belonged to another body (that is to say, to a strange 
body),, to be accepted without a line from the body he formerly belonged to. &. There 
is no person to let any one know who belongs to their body, but those who went under 
the- obligation. 6. There is no body of men to go to a challenge without leave of thtee 
Qf .the committee at least. 7. There is nobody to get a copy of these without the leave 
of the grand master appointed by the general year's meeting, or deputies appointed by 
thesaid grand maoter,. or his committee. 8. Let no person know no words or sigis 
without being concerned ; and they are not empowered to give or make known, by 
either wocds, or signs, or tokens, any that may hereafter come forth, or make it knows 
to any company or body but ourselves, or our body. 9. There is no Defender- to sake 
himaelf knowa as a Defender, after beings excluded, under fear of perjury ; and eacil; 
mazL continuing six montha from tkia da^ most find a< gun and bayonet, wi^ other M# 
ceMBry accoutrements, or be excluded at the option of the committee." 

The phraseology of the above sufficiently shows of what class the Defender orgSBiB*^ 


BebeHioii of 17d8. The Peep^f.'Bay Boys, have ako an histodeai import- 
anee^ aa the precunors of tLe Ortmge Ba^Sy. or OnAsasxEBf, 

in Ihe year 1792, Defenderism lutd become mom foflrmidable than in any 
preriouB pmod of its existence. We have no wish needlessly to fill our 
pages with the hoicrars of a desultory agvaiian waxfare ; but aa the state of 
Irelandy the condition of its people, and the character of its goyernment eaa* 
n<^ he u&derstood from mere generalities of description, we may quole the 
foMowing as a sampk; of what was daily doing in that unhappy coontiy ^•«• 

•• Among otter events of the year 1792, that tended to inflame the public mind, were 
tlte growth and eSLtension of Defenderism. As the Defenders were generally Catholics; 
it then was, and has since been, the theme of the enemies to the Catholics to connect tht 
etamt of Catholic Emancipation tdtk the cause and outrages of these lawless mucreantg^ Until 
that time they had not appeared beyond the countieft of Armagh and LontJi ; now they 
suddenly appeared, in bodies in the county of Meath, particularly in those parts which 
adjoin to CaTan. There, and in the adjacent parts of Cavan, there resided numerous^ 
trfbes of Presbyterians, called by the common people Scots, Between these and the- 
lower order of Catholics there had prevailed for many years an hereditary animosity ; 
and it is hard to say on which side ignorance and religious prejudices preponderated. 
T\Le Defenders on this occasion were the aggressors ; their plan was to procure arms,. 
and to deprive all those of arms who were not engaged in their cause. They began with 
the Presbyterians, and not in the most courteous manner. 

** The Scots took the alarm. Their brethren of the county of Cavan joined, and they 
80«n appeared in force ; more formidable by their knowledge of the use of arms than by 
their numbers. They were encouraged and headed by magistrates^ elergt/ment and aUomeys* 
Their fury against these aggressors, who were mostly Catholics, fell indiscriminately 
against aflof that persuasion. The Defenders, who hitherto had acted only by night,. 
now ventured to appear in open day. They assembled to the number of about one 
hundred and fifty men, some with fire*arms, and the rest with such weapoms as tlMy 
coiald procure, near Petersville, the seat of Mr. Tucker, a moderate and humane man. 
Their avowed intention was to lescue some of their party who had been detained aspri«- 
soners by the Scots in the little town of Baileborough ; but on receiving intelligence 
that the Scots were marching into that neighbourhood, they altered their plan, and re-^ 
solved to meet their old enemies. The Scots were accompanied with a party of the> 
nulitarj, all under the direction of magistrates. On their approach the Defenders took 
advantage of a wall, and lay in ambush. But, notwithstanding this advantage, they didt 
no execution ; some of them discharged their pieces very awkwardly, and on the first fire 
from thcBiilitary and Scots, they fled with precipitation. Such of them as were most 
clbsely pursued, sought shelter in the house of Mr. Tucker, and some of that gentleman'^ 
innocent labourers, terrified by what they were only spectators of, took refuge in the 
same place. The house was soon entered; innocect and guilty were dragged from their 
hiding places, and butchered in cold blood, with circumstances of barbarous cruelty. It 
is Justice to say, that the military bdiaved on this occasion with as much humanity as 
gallantry. Some of the Peep-of-Day Boys, flushed with these outrageous murders, 
sanctioned by the presence of magistrates, on their return to Kells, most wantonly shot 
an innocent tiaveller on the road. After this exploit, they over-ran the.countiy, pil« 
la^ed, plundered, burned, wit/tout requiring any mark of guilt hui religion. And thaiir 
proceedings,, if not encouraged, were at least connived at." * 

tion was composed. "They had no persons in their body," says Dr. Madden, '^ of the 
upper, or even the middle class in life. The only man known among them above the 
condition of a labourer was a schoolmaster in Kaas, of tha name of Lawrence O'Connor, 
who was executed in 1796." 

'There is nothing in the oath and rules of 1789 that seems to betoken the coalition 
which subsequently took place between the Defenders and the later Societies of United 
Irishmen.. A vague notion, in general, that *^some thing ought to be done for Ireland," 
and a pretty active war, in particulttr, against hearth-money, tithes, rounty cess, high 
rests, and Protestants, appear to have bc«n, for a Jong time^ the extreme limit of their 
political ideas and aspirations. The talk of Liberty and Equality (which meant the 
extermination of aristocrats and Protestants) bsganrsosie yemra afterwards. 

'• Plowden's " Historical Review,," vol. ii.>p. a85u 

68 HI8T0BT OF THE " 

All which, of course, made it so much the worse for the Catholics, in their ' 
struggle for civil and political jights. As the Defenders happened to be 
mostly CathoKcs, their crimes were eagerly laid hold of by the ascendency 
party, as a useful weapon in the emancipation controversy ; it was con- 
sidered a fine stroke of policy to implicate Catholic prelates, by a sort of 
constructive complicity, in arson, and insinuate burglary and murder 
against merchants who believed in transubstantiation. The Defender 
outrages were regarded less as a social evil to be repressed, than as a 
political advantage to be improved ; the object of the government and its 
partisans was not so much to put down the Defenders, as to fasten their 
guilt on the whole Catholic body. 

The United Irishmen of Dublin and Belfast could not be passive specta- 
tors of these doings of the busy devil of religious discord. Ireland could 
have no freedom without peace ; and the work they had in hand could 
only be accomplished by the consentaneous sympathies and efforts of the 
very men whose hands were red with each other's blood. Accordingly, 
Neilson and Tone, during the summer of 1 792, made sevend journeys 
through the northern and western counties, for the purpose of composing 
these local and partisan quarrels, calming the angry bigotry of both parties, 
and carrying the Union of Irishmen down into the heart of the democracy, 
Protestant and Catholic. Tone's Journals of these pacification tours (which 
were not, on the whole, successful) are vividly illustrative of the social and 
moral state of Ireland at that time, of the temper of different sections of the 
Irish people, and of the kind of difficulty which beset the enterprise of the 
Dublin and Belfast Associations. The following are his notes of a visit to 
Eathfriland, in the <JOunty of Down, where very serious disturbances then 
existed : — 

« July 18, 1 792. Set off with Neilson and yonng Lowry to Rathfriland. In about an 
hour the Catholics arrive from Down-Patrick. Meet Mr. Tighe, the Parson, Sam. Barber, 
the Dissenting Minister, Mr. Derry, the Priest, and about eighteen gentlemen of the 
neighbourhood. Agreed on ail haruiSf that the Protestants were the aggressors. Several 
have beeti killed on both sides. Great offence taken at the Catholics marching about in 
military array, and firing shots at unseasonable times. The Catholics certainly wrong 
in that, and must, if possible, be stopped. The majority think that if that were accom- 
plished, the disturbances would soon die away. Some bigots think that their arms should 
be taken from the Catholics. God forbid ! — ^besides, the thing is in its nature impossible. 

"^'Mr. Hutton (t.e., himself) proposes that the Catholics shall agree to desist from 
parading' iYt bodies and firing, and the Dissenters shall declare that they will maintain the 
peace of the country against all who shall transgress, without distinction of party or 
religion. An amendment proposed by Neilson, that this declaration should be made by 
the Volunteers. The idea unanimously approved, and three officers then present (Captain 
A. Lowry, Captain Cowen, and Captain Barber,) engage for their respective companies. 
A refractory priest, of the name of Fitzsimons, much blamed ; the Catholics engage to 
have him removed. They likewise propose to have a pastoral letter from their Bishop, 
and a circular one from the committee, to be read in every chapel, recommending 
peace and good order. The Catholics always ready to makepeace and keep it. Cannot, on 
the whole, learn that they do anything worse than meet in large bodies, and fire powder ; 
foolish, certainly, but not wicked. They break open no houses, nor ever begin an attack. 
The Protestauts, however, extremely alarmed at Uieir meetings, which, therefore, must, 
if possible, be suppressed. The Caiholic clergy have almost totally lost their influence since 
the people have got arms, sofiOal to superstition and priestcrqfi is even the smallest degree of 
lihtTty. The Catholics and Mr. Hutton receive the thanks of the meeting for their public 
spirit in coming down on the occasion. AU part on excellent terms." 

The "excellent terms", were not, however, of long continuance. In ' 
less than a month we find RatJifirilaiid politics in a worse state than ever. 


On the 1 Ith of August, our zealous arid able Head-Pacificator, then on a 
Becond expedition among the Peep-of-Day Boys, journalises the follow- 
ing : — 

" Hear that Mr. Barber is of opinion we ought not to go to Bathfrilandt and has desired 
some one to write us word so» It is surmised that his reason is, lest we might be insulted 
by some of the bigots in that town. Cannot help it ; what must be, must be ; and we 
must go to Rathfriland. Buy powder and ball, and load our pistols for fear of accidents. 
Afraid of Captain Swan, who is a bloody Peep-of-Day Boy ; endeavour to make a pun on 
his name ; something about goose, but it won't do. Hear Just now that if we go to Bath" 
frUand toe shaU be houghed: 'pleasant, but wrong.' What is to be done ? This infor- 
mation Hire have from Mr. 0*Neil, of Cabra ; cowardly enough, but I dare say he heard 
it. Set off for Mr. O'Neil, of Bannvale, on our way for Rathfriland. Arrive at length at 
that flourishing seat of liberality and public virtue. Stop at Murphy's Inn, six in num- 
ber, all valiant. Get paper and begin to write to Dr. Tighe, Mr. Barber, and Mr. A. 
Lowry. Stopped short by the intelligence that the latidlord will give us no accommodation ! 
The fellow absolutely refuses. He has cold beef and lamb chops, and will give us neither, 
but turns off on his heel. The dog is a Quaker. What is to be done now, at half-past 
four ? A striking proof of the state of politics in this country, when a landlord will not give 
accommodation for money to Catholics! Get a Mr. Murphy at last, brother to our hospi- 
table landlord, and a decent man : explain the motives of our coming to him. He seems 
very much ashamed of the behaviour of his brother, and in some degree apprehensive 
of our meeting some insult ; which, however, he hopes may not happen. All stout; 
some of us determined to make the boors of Rathfriland smoke for it, if they attack us, 
particularly M'Nally, who has ridden from Newry armed, merely to assist us in case of 
necessity ; manly and decided. The gentlemen of the town have learned, as we presume, 
that we are prepared, and therefore make no attempt to duck us, as they had lamented they 
did not do on our last visit. LehVe Rathfriland in great force, the cavalry in the front. 
See about 150 Peep-of-Day Boys exercising within a quarter of a mile of the town. Suppose 
if we had attempted to lie in the town, we should have had a battle. Horrible thing, 
these religious discords, which are cbbtainly fomented by the aristocaats of 


Disappointed among the democracy, the friends of peace, law, and order 
now applied, as a last resort, to the aristocracy of the county ; but with 
little better result. On the 16th, Tone and Neilson are admitted to an in- 
terview with Lords Downshire and Hillsborough ; but their lordships 
evince no liking for any other way of restoring or keeping the peace, than 
the old-established one. Lord Hillsborough is — 

•* Angry at the Committee's interference. No notion of any mode cf settling the dis^ 
turbances but by a strong hand. Talks of more regimetUs of light horse, and calls the Com- 
mittee and the Defenders * Dublin Papists,* and * country Papists ;* says our going down 
has done great mischief, though our motives may be good ; abuses the men who formed 
the meeting at Rathfriland on the 18th July ; says there are /our thousand stand of arms 
in the hands of the Defenders, and if they will pile them up in one place, he will insure 
their protection ; inveighs bitterly against the communications between the Catholics through 
the country, and against seditious publications, which he explains to signify Paine ; says 
the laws have been equally administered, for that six Protestants have been hanged for 
Peep-of-Day Boy practices, and two of them on the spot where the burglary was com- 
mitted. (This is a lie,) In short, that he will see the laws execute themselves, without 
our interference. On the whole, his lordship was just civil, and no more. Fine fencing 
between his lordship and Mr. Hutton, who defends the Catholics with great address and 
ability ; hits his lordship several times on the riposte. The ambassadors both bluff and 
respectful. State their case, and that they did not come until called upon ; make a cut 
or two at the Protestant ascendency about Rathfriland. Admit the four thousand stand of 
arms, but state that they have in no one instance been used offensively. Strike a little 
at the new corps ; to the raising of which, and the spirit of the officers, we insinuate, 
almost the whole of the present alarm may be attributed. Pin his lordship to the con- 
fession that the Catholics have never, in any case, begun thi attack. As to their meeting in 
bodies, admit it is improper, but state that they have always dispersed without doing 

70 HI8XOST 07 TKX 

nisehief. Fiaslly; declare our ooimetipo thift, if th€ CatitUicB wM §ee thai 4ift«y %ad 
equal protection with the Protettatits, jMose would be immediately restored* Part from their 
lordsliips, neither of us much pleased vdih the other." 

On the whole, these rural missions of the United Irishmen do not seem 
to have succeeded. In the whole mass of these journals we can only dis- 
cover one really successful attempt at pacification ; which is so beant^d as 
to deserve transcribing. The missionaries leave their lordships, and— 

*< Arrire at Ballinahinch late. Introduced to M*Glokey, a ' proper man.' That neigh- 
bourhood almost totally conyerted, though yery bad eome little time back. A new eoxps 
raised there on Peep-of-Day Boy principles, converted by M*Clok«y, who, in return, is 
chosen their lieutenant. All well. The Catholics and they are now on such good terms, 
that the Catholics tend them their tirms to learn their eaterdsey and walk to see them parade, 
and both parties now in high affection with each other, who were before ready to cut 
each other's throats. All this done in about two months, or less, and by the exertions 
of one obscure man. What might not he done by the aristocrats of the County Down, if 
they were actuated by the same spirit f" 

But, as the aristocrats of the County Down, and of other Irish eoonties 
(and tiie democrats likewise), were actuated by a quite different spirit, 
little or nothing was to be done. Peep-of-Day Boys and Defenders pre- 
ferred their litde Protestant and Popi^ partisanships to their Irish natacm- 
ality ; and it became increasingly apparent, every month, that the United 
Irish agitation, in its then existing form, could be no other than a middle- 
class movement. 

Within these limits, however, the agitation went on bravely. The in- 
telligence and patriotism of the best men of both religions were daily more 
■and more aroused and concentrated in the work of national regeneration, 
on the basis of representative reform and religious equality. The events -of 
French and European pditics continued to exert their stimulating energy 
on the hopes and efforts of IriBhmen. The Belfast commemoration, this 
year (1792), of the destruction of the Bastile, which went off with unusual 
splendour and dclat, sealed the union of the sects, so far as regarded the 
middle-class intelligence and feeling of each, and spirited them up to new 
and bolder efforts. Dissenters from Dublin were there, and deputies 
from the Catholic Committee were there ; at sight of whom, the hair of 
Doctor Haliday's moderate Presbyterian wig is credibly reported to have 
miraculo'us]y turned grey. A grand Volunteer review viras held ; a polh;e 
cause being shown why it was " not thought proper to call on the venera- 
ble Genersd of the Volunteer Army of Ulster, the Earl of Charlemont, to 
preside;" the fact being, that the venerable General was understood to have 
Bmall liking for the religious-equality principle which was now in the 
ascendant in Belfast politics. The grand review was followed by a grand 
procession, with^w^ dejoie^ and emblematic devices, with mottos appro- 
priale to the OGcasiiw.^ After the procession, there was a grand asambly 
of citizens and citizen-soldiers, to the number of six thousand, in theliooii- 
Hall ; when they voted unanimously an address to the National Assembly 
' of France, full of that "affectionate fraternity of heart which ought to 
luiite man with man, and nation with nation, in one great republic of the 

* Such as « A figure of Hibemia, one hand aadfoot in ah a ctlas .. a Voluntter pEwent- 
ing to her a figare of liberty. Mono : For n peepk to be fbeb, f^ is tt^Scimt thai 4hey 
wxxx iL*' Ano&er waa, a portcait of IdiiabeBtt, mik the jnotto^ *" Our CMfk MmAtr 
wot iormdn ITfiO; aiat ! we-mt MiU in emkrptJ* 


woatUL^ The addreMers ^ attapicate ItapptnesB «xid gfeiy to the Inmmn 
XKce;" ^ suooeas to the annies of France,** as ^^the ad-vanced guard of 
^be world ;" *^ Jneedom and proaperity to the people of France," (with an 
intimatian of regret that ^' a Toek of^xwition to ike inveifitible idll of 
the public had, in some instances, maddened a dUpo^ion athervime 
mtUd amd magnammouty and turned energy into ferodty'^y-^^tjiA '' long 
ii& waA happiness to the King of the French" (who was guillotined jnst 
six months afterwards). They likewise -voted, all but imanimously — ^some 
Btiff-necked Presbyterians of the HaHday, Bruoe, and Charlemont school 
Btill *' doubting as to the expediency, though agreeing in the principle"—- 
an address to tiie people of Ireland, with a strcmg religious^equality para- 
>gr^^. The day ended, according to our joyous and jovial Head-Pacific 
cajtor, with — 

''IMimer at the Donegal Arms — Everybody as Tuippy as a Kinff — Huzza! Cfod hUst 
'jcnry&Mfy /^Stanislaus Augustus! — Gborob Wabbingtom! — Beau jour — Hbme, God 
knows how or when — ^Huzza { — God bless everybody ayam, generally — Bed, with TfiBBE 
XZMBS lUBSB,— 'Sleep at last," 

'This Fourteenth- July commemoration-Hrather, the European events which 
it celebrated, the sympathies which it cemented, the aspirations which it fos- 
tered, and the changed relations of religious parties which it indicated, pro- 
daeed a potent effect on the Catholics of Ireland. It made them less Catholic 
and more Irii^. It matured among them that democratic spirit and power 
'wtiose rise and eariier progress we have already noted, and whose further 
movements we are now to trace. In this spirit they elected their Convention, 
despite all the thunders of grand-jury denunciation, and the protestations 
and recession of their own prelacy and aristocracy. Of this spirit the Con- 
tention, so elected, was now to be the organ and mouthpiece. Nothing was 
ever more felicitously timed and circumstanced than this Catholic Conven- 
tion. When its sittings commenced (2nd of December, 1792) the govern- 
ment was at its weakest, and the nation at its strongest. Dumourier was 
driving the Prussians before him out of France ; the funds were coming 
donmi, as every post brought tidings of some new success of the aims of Re- 
publican France, enhancing the probabilities of a speedy beginning of that 
war which all men saw must begin, sooner or later ; the Irish ministry ware 
paralysed, and could not interfere — the British minister was prudent, and 
would not. Events had, for once, given the Caljiolics of Ireland everything 
their own way— and they knew it : it was their first chance for centories, 
«nd they hnproved it ; the victims of the Penal Code had got a voice in 
the world at last— and they spoke. 

On the very first meeting of the new Catholic parliament, it was clear 
tiMt old things had passed away. No longer the self-appointed agents of 
« despised and degraded caste, meeting in holes and comers, existing on 
safiferance and breathing by connivance — ^but the publicly-elected delegates 
and spokesmen of thi^e millions of people— they at once discarded their old 
fAavish ways of doing buraness, and went to the work of their emancipation 
with the energy and Ixddness of men who were self-emancipated already. 
Then: first act was to prepare Kpetitkm to the Emy, praying, not ibr any 
elective franc^se, corporate privilege, cm: other such spec^ ** boon,*' bat 
far yusncE — nmple, absohite, and immediate. Not without much hesita- 
tion and delay, and dubious pondering of expediencies and possibilities^ 
was the thing done— but done it was, xmanimondy and by acclamation. 


" We have been asked," said a member, " what shall we do in case <yf cl 
refusal ? I will not, when I look round me, suppose a refusal. But, if such 
an event should take place, our duty is obvious. We are to tell our con^ 
stituents ; and they^ not we, are to determine- We will take the sense 
of the whole people, and see what they will have done."* . 

The petition to the King being agreed on, the next question was the 
mode of transmitting it. Through what channel should they send their 
petition ? Again the answer was ready, after a while, after more of hesita- 
tion, delay, and doubt :^" Take yom* petition to the King : if you would 
have your business done, go— if not, send" It was a bold measure. It was 
quite without a precedent — all previous Irish Catholic addresses to royalty- 
having been transmitted (or left e^^etransmitted) through Dublin Castle. It 
was a vote of censure on his Majesty's Irish advisers. It was a declaration 
of want of confidence in the Viceroy and the vice-regal administration. It 
was, in fact, refusing to recognise the existence of the government which 
had, for a centurj^ past, refused to recognise their existence. Everything" 
was done that Dublin Castle could do, to avert the blow. " Influential 
individuals" were given to imderstand, that if the petition were sent 
through the usual channel, the Irish ministry would instantly despatch it 
by express, and back it with the strongest recommendations. At first the 
Convention wavered. It was agreed that they should wait half an hour, 
for the result of one more interview between the Castle people and the in- 
fluential individu€Js. Wonderfully were the times and the men changed ! 
" The very men," says Tone, " who, a few months before, could not obtain 
an answer at the Castle, sat with their watches in their hands, minuting 
that government which had repelled them with disdain." The answer not 
coming in time, and not proving satisfactory when it did come, the Con- 
vention voted, without more waiting, that the petition should go direct to 
Majesty; and five of their body were appointed as delegates to go to 
London, and see it safely lodged in Majesty's hands. 

The five delegates — Edward Byrne, John Keogh, Christopher Dillon 
BeUew, James Edward Devereux, and Sir Thomas French, with Tone to 
accompany them as secretary — ^fitly represented the power which conti- 
missioned them. Another bold measure was soon forthcoming, to >overawe 
Dublin Castle yet more completely, and administer wholesome suggestion 
to the meditations of the^ British Minister. As there was no packet-boat 
ready for sailing in Dublm harbour, it occurred to the delegates that they 
might as well take their journey by way of Belfast; which would afford 
a convenient opportunity for strengthening the union of Irishmen, and re- 
newing their vows of fraternisation with their Protestant Dissenting 
friends in the north. Accordingly, to Belfast they went ; and at Belfast 
they were received in a way which fully justified their expectations, and 
which could not be without its effect on ministerial opinion. On their de- 
parture, the horses were taken from their carriage ; they were drawn to the 
place of embarkation by the Protestant Dissenting people, and sent on 
their way rejoicing, with Protestant acclamations ringing in their ears. It 
seemed dreadfully imprudent in our delegates, thus to mix themselves up 
with men who were notoriously out of favour with the constituted authori- 
.ties; nothing could be more calculated to " embarrass his Majesty's go- 

* Tone's " Memoirs," vol. L, p. 108. 


veminent.'' But the Catholics of Ireland had served their apprenticeship 
in the great political lesson, that ministerial embarrassment is the short and 
sure way to popular success. " Let our delegates^' it was said, " if they 
are refused^ return by the same routed 

On the arrival of the deputation in London, their first business was to 
acquaint the Home Secretary (Mr. Dundas) with the object of their mis- 
sion, and to request the naming of a day and hour when they might w^it 
on him with a copy of their petition, for royal perusal before delivery. An 
appointment was made accordingly ; the delegates met the Minister ; a 
long conversation ensued ; they were heard with particular attention, and 
howed out with abundant politeness. Still there was a difficulty. The se- 
cretary wished to break the fall of the government in Ireland. He would 
take charge of the petition, and deliver it safely into the royal hands. But 
the delegates were firm : they had not come all that way — around by Bel- 
fast, too— for the pleasure of seeing Mr. Secretary Dundas : diplomacy on 
the one side was met by doggedness on the other. At length the Minister 
was obliged to concede the point (honest Earl Moira having promised that, 
if necessary, he, as a peer, would ask an audience of the Sovereign, and in- 
troduce the deputation himself), and on Wednesday, the 2nd of January, 
1793, the five delegates were pkesented at St. James's, by Mr. Dundas, 
with the regular forms, and, with their own hands, delivered into the King's 
own hands the humble petition of his Majesty's three millions of Catholic 
subjects in Ireland. They made a " splendid appearance," says their secre- 
tary, " and met with what is called, in the language of courts, a most 
ffraciotts reception.'' 

Before leaving England, the delegates obtained a farewell audience of 
the Minister, in order to learn, if they could, his intentions, and to acquaint 
him once more, and once for all, with those of the Catholic people of Ire- 
land. The interview did not absolutely satisfy them, and yet they did not 
exactly see cause for being dissatisfied. Great plainness of speech on thek 
part, almost amoimting to an intimation of the conditional and contingent 
quality of Irish Catholic allegiance, was met by due official caution and *' de- 
licacy" on the side of the Secretary of State. He was careful, as is the 
way with Secretaries of State, to avoid "conMnitting himself" to particulars; 
yet his generalities were pleasant to hear ; and he even went the length of 
assuring the deputation that " his Majesty was sensible of their loyalty and 
attachment to the principles of the constitution — ^that, in consequence, t?iep 
should he recommended in the speech from the throne at the opening of 
the impending session — and that ministers in England desired approbation 
and support from them only in proportion to the measure of relief 
afforded'' The assurance was not, in point of definiteness, quite what 
they could have wished ; yet it was perhaps more than they might have 
expected from the dignity and reserve of ministerial diplomacy — and at 
any rate it was all that could be got. Putting all things together — ^the 
gracious royal reception, with the fair-seeming ministerial assurances — the 
delegates conceived that they could not do else than vote the resvdt of their 
Biission " satisfactory'' 

Here, for the present, we leave the Irish Catholics and their ambassadors 
in enjoyment of the gracious reception and the satisfactory assurances-*- 
the hard-earned reward of one of the best-timed and most happily managed 
agitations that history has to show. How far the satisfactory prospect was 

74 HiMaiKi OF nn 

: m « sa^tiflfiLetey remit, -we iduOl leaan in « future chapter. Ifieoa- 
Rvhfle, tilings iookedirelL The Irifih Pspists had found tibeirwaytO'iMiuit; 
they had Ineathed die ak of Whitehall and St. James's ; they had seen tiiie 
King and talked with the Minister ; tlKy had appealed £ram the iyratmy of 
domeBtic legislatian to tiie Gnnr of the imperial crown, and their appeal 
had heen graciously receifved. On Che whole, llie Iridi Papista seem^ in 
a lair way to get their existence recognised hy the constitution, amd their 
light to hreathe duly provided for hy act of paxhament. 



Mb.*Secbetabt Dundas kept his word. On the 10th of January, 1793, 
the Lord-Lieutenant opened parliament in Dublin, with a speech contain- 
ing the following " conciliation" paragraph :— 

" I have it in particular command from his Majesty to recommend it to yon, to apply 
yonraelves to the consideration of such measures as may be most likely to strengthen and 
eemmt a general tmion of genihneni anumg allcUtetet and detcrifitions of his Mtyesiy's mt^'eets, 
in support of the established constitution. ' With this yiew, his Majesty trusts that the 
sitvation of his Majesty's Catholic sttbjects wiU engage your serious attention, and in the con- 
sideration of this subject he relies on the idsdom and Itherality of his parliament. *• 

The Irish Papists, then, had iiot been at St James's for nothing. Tb^ 
had moved the British minister— to move the Crown-^to move the Irish 
minister-— to move parliament, to recant its ascendency resolutions of the 
farevious session ; to grant, Tvidiout more words, the claims which, the year 
before, it had refused to listen to, even to the extent of letting an humble 
petition Me quiet^ly on the table ; to set at nought the protestations* and 
addresses, and menaces of corporations and grand juries, headed by Oom- 
moiw' Speakers and Lord Chancellors, and to admit the three milUans of 
Foposh outlaws within die pale of the Protestant constitution. The par- 
liament of College-Green was now under orders from Dublin Caslie and 
fit. James's to surrender at discretion to the parliament of Back-Lane. 

At the commencement of this sesaon of 1793, ail looked well for the 
CaHiolics of Ireland. They were in a position to carry everythsng Iheir 
own way. They had but to ask with sufficient boldness and pexlinacily, 
and they were sure of receiving. The government was completely para- 
lysed; much hurt, and stifl «i<»pe frightened. The PrussianB had he«i 
swept out of France ; Dumourier was in Brabant, with H<^and omde- 
lended before Um, and London not so remote but that the contingency of 
iavaaion came rnthin the range of poss^litieB, and was worthy of oanis- 
tenai oonsideciiEtion ; public cretfit tottered; the frmds were &ilB^; Hie 
fopvkr cry £»r E^tnsi wMxuring; war waspbdidy inevitable and near ; iffl 


tibe elemsntB of ministerial ^ embarrasBixmiit" bad colkd»d tSiemaelTasi lEito 
use dease and Jonnidable soass of all-tnit iiKurmouiUaide d iflfi c ulty an d 
lias BUegtaaee of three miiions cf people in Izelazid was not to he lif^j 
hasaardfid. Itipras no time to stand upon coaedsteiK^ : Ptotestant asoea- 
dency, Hioogli a good thing in its way, was scarcely wxnth the prioe of an 
Xrish rebellion on the eve of a Etiropean war. Accordingly, this session of 
1793 began as no Irish parliamentary session had ever began before ; with 
^sarge pnnnises and unbounded prc^essioDs on the part of govemmeift, 
nod ev&a. with performances, at the amplitude of which (judging by 
coonparisan with the past) tibe Wiiig Opposition were feiriy carri^ off 
their fiset with astonishment and delight. Place bills, pension biib, re- 
sponsibility bills — ^which, session after session for some seven years, the 
Opposition had been hopelessly fighting for, in the &ce of thundering ma- 
jorities—were now frankly accepted, and brought forward as governmoit 
measures. The Opposition could now scarcely propose a thing wiliiout 
being agreeably surprised by the intelligence tliat his Majesty's ministers 
iiad, or soon would have, a bill of their own ready that would answer the 
purpose better. Even in such a matter as the amending and lib^afising 
of the law of libel, Mr. Grattan found himself forestalled by his Majesty's 
Attorney-General, who politely requested that Ms measin^e might be aH- 
lowed llie precedence. The question of parliamentary reform itself was 
fflirrendered, without a dividon and without a debate. Parliament had not 
sat five days before the House of Commons came to an unanimous vote to 
form itself, on .an early day, into a conunittee of f^e whole house, to inquire 
into the state of the represezrtation. 

Thus passed off the first parliamentary week of the year 1793, in the 
pleasantest way imaginaMe. Everything that anybody proposed for the 
good of tiie country was unanimously agreed to by both sides of the house. 
Opposition took holiday ; there was, in truth, nothing to oppose, l^e mi- 
niBtry was to reasonable and c(Hnplaisa&t. *^ Country gentlemen," says 
Hardy, ^ could scarcely believe their ears or their eyes ; such deeds, ©r 
rsther, such professions of high parliamentary emprise, seemed to carry 
them back to the days of antique chivalrous patriotism. ' Whence does 
all Ibis benignity flow ?' said Lord Charlemont, at this time, to theau€ior of 
diBBe n)emoirs ; ' I doubt very much if Matmeur Dumourier ever heard 
of a parMam^itaTy reform, and yet I am almost tempted to suspect him «f 
having Bome share in what is now going forward,' "* The Whig lord's 
suG^cion was Ednewd and sagacious ; and it would have been wise in aU 
Whigs, Papists, and others interested in ministerial embarrassment, to im- 
prove, without loss of time, their own and Monsieur Dumourier's good &r- 
lame. it was a beautiful and pleasant beginning this, of the session. of 
1793 ; but might it not turn out too^^oodto last? 

Meanwhile, how was the Catholic question going on ? The demand had 
-foaen £s- justice— ^he justice of total, immediate, and unconditional emanei- 
fneiion; the ^lomise had been of large and Hberal conoession— C»&dic 
gratitude and support were to be commensurate with the amount of relief 
afieided. At what rate was performance proceeding ? 

tjrreat is the force of use and wont. It is said that negro rnsurrections 
In our sugar dskadg, during the old days of slavery (the story has good .an- 


» *> 1immUD -^f thelB«i of XamrieBiBi!t*''V(fl.1i.,p.'8iM, 


cient clasBical parallels) have been put down by the mere sight of tliie over^ 
seer with his whip, when the ordinary military appliances of sabre and 
musket have been tried and found wanting ; the blacks could stand fire, 
• and fancy themselves men and soldiers — ^but the sight of the whip reminded 
them they were only slaves after all, and revived, by irresistible law of as- 
sociation, the suspended animation of the slave instinct of passive obedience. 
And we remember it was slanderously rumoured, some years since (this 
must have been a calumny), of our brave countrymen the British Le- 
gion in Spain, that on one critical occasion they forgot their wonted gal- 
lantry and were seized with panic, when confronted with certain Carlist 
Blues, the colour of whose imiforms is said to have brought back, es- 
pecially among the new recruits, painful reminiscences of the London po- 
lice, and made them fancy themselves for the moment in the streets of the 
British metropolis. Something of this kind was the experience of our 
Irish Papists, in this month of January, 1793. They had bonie themselves 
bravely at Whitehall and St. James's; they had looked unabashed on 
royalty, and said their say at the Home-office, and baffled ministerial finesse 
with bold blunt speaking. In London they behaved like men, but when 
they returned home they became Irish Papists again. On sight of their 
old masters, the old feeling of servitude came creeping once more over the 
half-emancipated slaves of the Penal Code. After having extorted the 
principle from the British ministry, they could not, for lack of self-respect 
and self-possession, negociate details with their own provincial rulers ; and 
they lost in Dublin Castle the better part of what they had gained at St. 
James's.* Up to tliis point they had done admirably ; they had not faltered 
nor tripped once. They had demanded everything, and conceded no- 
thing ; they had been peremptory and unaccommodating, both in the sub- 
stance and the tone of their application, and they had found the peremptory 
and unaccommodating way of doing business answer best ; and now, in the 
moment of their greatest strength and of their enemies' greatest weakness, 
in the very height of the government panic, they more than half failed, 
simply because they could not say over again in Dublin what they had 
said in London. 

The session had not proceeded many days before it became necessaiy 
for the Irish Cabinet to settle what, precisely, in quantity and quality, 
should be the measure of emancipation conceded in answer to the Catholic 
petition. They accordingly opened a negociation with the leading and 
managing men of the Convention : and from the hour that this negociation 
began, the Catholic spirit fell, and the Catholic cause lost ground. The 
Catholics ought to have had nothing to do with negociating : it was pre- 
cisely the one thing which they did not understand. It was completely 
changing their position. Negociation meant compromise ; abandonment of 
the ground of right ; willingness to accept a part, and call it the whole* 
To begin negociating was to make the entire business a thing no longer of 
principle, but of details — some essential, others non-essential, the most 

* "It is remarkable," says the editor of Tone's Memoirs, *'and belongs, perhaps, to 
an innate principle of human nature, that the Catholic leaders displayed much more 
spirit in pleading their cause amongst strangers, and before the monarch himself, than 
when they had to settle the terms of that relief already granted with those subordinate 
ministers of his, before whose insolence and oppression they had bent so long in sub* 
mission. They thm teemed to recognise ilmt frown to which they had been accustomed" 


disputable — all open to discussion and diplomacy. The Catholics were 
bad diplomatists. They could, on an emergency, defy their masters at the 
Castle (as they had already done in taking their petition to London), but 
they could not sit down and talk coolly on business with them. They 
were neirer at their ease in such colloquies ; the feeling of freedom and 
equality was wanting. In the very first interview they had with the Irish 
Secretary (Mr. Hobart) they put on the list of non-essentials — definitively 
gave VLp—^the right to sit in Parliament. Pretty well for a beginning! 
Tone says, in his Journals (21st January)— 

'< In the Sub-Committee, Sir T. French, Byrne, Keogh, and M. Donnell despatched to 
Hobart, to apprise him that < nothing short of unlimited emancipation will satisfy the 
Catholics.' They return in about an hour, extremely dissatisfied unth each other ; and, after 
divers mutual recriminations, it appears, by the confession of all parties, that, so far 
from discharging their commission, they had done directly the reverse : for the result of 
their conversation with the secretary was, that he had declared explicitly against the 
whole measure, and they had given him reason, in consequence, to think that the Catholici 
■would acquiesce contentedly in a half one. • * * 

'* Agreed by the Sub-Committee that a letter should be written to Hobart to rectify this 
mistake ; which is done accordingly, after many alterations. It is not well done after 
all ; for, instead of putting the question on the true ground, it only says that his Majesty's 
gracious intentions towards the Catholics cannot be fulfilled, unless by the repeal of the 
penal laws. I wanted to express it a great deal stronger, and to liint at the danger of 
trifling, but was overpowered. ♦ * * A sneaking spirit of compromise seems creeping in, , 
which, if not immediately checked, may be fatal." * 

The sneaking spirit of compromise had crept in hut too effectually, and was 
not now to he exorcised. The experienced diplomatists of the Castle saw their 
advantage, and kept it. That one hour's talk had undone the best part of 
the work of six months. The minister breathed freely again ; the panic 
was over ; he saw there was no need of being in a hurry ; delay was not 
dangerous,— perhaps he had said already more than he need have said. 
The whole aspect of the business was changed. The question now was 
no longer, whether to emancipate or not, with civil war contingent on the 
answer ; but, how small a measure of concession might do as a '' boon," 
in lieu of emancipation. The problem for ministerial solution now was, to 
discover the minimum of relief, which the Catholic leaders might be cajoled 
into accepting as better than nothing. Accordingly, the ministerial policy 
was, from this time, to procrastinate ; to start difficulties, insinuate doubts, 
and suggest objections, and make as many open ^' questions of detail " as 
m^ht be, while " entirely agreeing in the abstract principle ; '' to discourage 
the Catholics, without irritating or violently disappointing them; in a 
word, to take them quietly down — and, at the same time, to be prepared 
for the ultima ratio of an appeal to physical force. The policy was 
sagaciously conceived and ably executed. The question dragged wearily 
on, from day to day and week to week; while Catholic courage was 
cooling, Catholic zeal declining. Catholic hope turning into heart-sickness, 
and Catholic union breaking up into party jealousies and suspicions. On 
the 24th of January our zealous and honest Catholic Secretary writed— - 

" Sir T. French opens the business (of the Sub-Committee) by a strong attack 
on the meeting for the lukewarm spirit which they have manifested for these last few ^ 

• «« Memoirs," vol. ii, p. 422. . 


dojft. I ftm very glad of this sUp, wliUsh, indeed, I pat the baeonet npoB. SmrntamnTi 
paper,* with my amendmenta^ brought in, read, and received coldly eno«^. 

" This is hard ! They have now a noble opportunity of punishing their old enemy 
Fitzgibbott, and I am afraid they will let it slip. It is objected to on two grounds : 1 sC, 
a^an attack on the privilegee of parfiament; and, and, inaflmuch as being behw th£Mr 
difmty «» cn<«r inM an altereatim with the Chmteelhr, The last it most insisted upon, tlie 
first appearing to savour a little of timidity. The £aci is they ar» afindd. Th^ were 
much stouter three months ago, when they were, beyond all comparison, weaker* KTo'sr 
they have, I may say, the whole North, the sanction of the King's name, and their owm 
paarty m ^e highest spirits and most anzioas expectations, — and all of a sudden they 
are gone unaccountably backward. 2^ is m&r A toiU give our $x«tfabU gwemfomt thne 
to recollect themselves. They are now rocking to their very foundation, and they are still 
more ingfatened than hurt. We art going to take them very kindly out of tiiis panic, 
and, by the fluctuation and indecision of our oouneils, to show them that they have nothings, 
to fear from us. The intended paper is at length got rid of by referring it to those who 
aw called, our jNir/Jafnenlary frietub. I never knew good come through that channeL**t" 

TLe '' strong attacks" and protestatiQX^ were, however, unayailing. Once 
for att, the Catholics had soade a fatal mktake, in negociaiing when they 
might have dictated, and there was now no help for it. While they bltin*- 
dered and boggled with their negociations, the government was prepaziug 
to coerce, should need be. Already had advantage been takea of the 
giatitttde and good humour of the Whig C^poution, to drive ^orou^ parlla>» 
ment, with the utmost rsi^idity, artn^ and militia bHis, with other 
measures calculated to strengthen the hands of ministers ; and Catholic 
loyalty was every day becoming less and less important. Before parlia- 
ment had sat one month, it had c<Mne to be a matter of the least pea^lde 
consequence to a strong, goyemment whether the Catholics were c(xic3iated 
0£ not ;. a&d yet the negociations were still in their preliminary s^bage. 

•*It is not necessary," says Tone, *• nor oould it now be useful, to detail these variouii 
eottbats, in which the same ground waafou^t over again, and again, with equal obsti» 
nacy and the same success. It may suffice to give the substance of one debate, ao a 
specimen : — 

"During the progress of the bill, the minister having sent for the gentlemen appointed 
to communicate with him, informed them that he could not pretend to amicerfor the success 
of the hill, unless he was enabled, front authority, to f^ly to a question proposed to him hy a 
noUe lord in debate, * Whether the Catholics, wotdd be satisfied with the measure of rtlirf w- 
tendedV By < satisfied' be meant that the public mind should not be irritated in the mmt- 
ner it had been for some time back; he did not mean to say that future applications "'^'g^t: 
not be made; but if they (the Catholics) would notfbr the present he satisfied, it were better 
to make a stand here than to coneede, and thereby to* give them strength, by which they 
might be able faxther to embarrass the administiatton — ^perliaps next session. This wa» 
pretty strong language from the minister (Secretary Hobart), and very unlike what 
he had held at the opening of the session ; but the aspect of the political hemi^then ?tad 
been materially altered in that short space. The very night before this interview, the 
House of Commons had voted an army of twenty thousand, and a militia of sixteen tfwusand 
men; a measure in which the opposition party had outrun the* hopes, and almost the 
wi<^es of the administration. Every meaffore for strengthening the hands of gevennuant 
was adopted by one party with even more eagerness- than it was proposed by the other ; 
the nation submitted implicitly to the good pleasure of the minister, and the leader 
of t>ppo8ition was contented, in terms, to implore the gratuitous clemency of the man to 
whom h&could have dictated the law; a mode «f proceeding that seems to have been 
more seatrmental than wise, as the subsequent measures oi' the administratioD obfin- 

* This was' *'a strong address to the nation, to show ministers that we are as resolute 
oj'srar." It was also a vindication of the Catholics and their Convention against some 
xecent abusive attacks of the Lord Chancellor (Fitzgibbon). 

t Tone's ** Memoirs/* ^ol. ii, p. 423. 

dflndjp Ttrifit^. Goifwrnnent iw« invcflCed' witk dictatorial powers ; to wliat puipoM 
they wen exerted posterity may safely, and will impartially determine. But to retum«^ 
" The deputation having reported the speech of the Secretary, a very warm debate 
ensued in the sub-committee, which, it may be necessary to repeat, then comprised a great 
portioa of the spirit and ability of the genend committee. The question was, ** wfaedier 
tfasy^ -would accede to the wish of the min£Bter,8ndy byadxaitting their gatJaftbedbiLattlia 
pneaent bUJ, sanction a measure short of comfplete emancipation ? "• 

Of this mam debate, the product was a cold and cautious 

,*' Cataymmute, — ^The deputation again saw the moifaiter, and, with, a nice distinction), 
they refused, in the name of the body, to express the wished-for satisfaction ; they re- 
fused to express it officially as members of the sub-committee,, but, as individual of 
the Catholic body, they admitted that the bill did contain ' substantiai reiie/,* and eren 
tbift admission was guarded with a stipulation that it should not be (pioted in debste* 
But the minister had ascertained all that he wished to know, by the proposal; he saw* 
that the Catholics would acquiesce in a measure short cf complete relief; and he inferred 
that they toould not risk the safety of their hill by opposition to any measureSf however npug* 
ndnt to their own, fedings^ or subversive of the general interest; and the whole process of 
the session justified his sagacity. The expresMOn of satisfaction was therefore no longer 
zeqmred, and the biU proceeded in the usualiDim8."t 

~ The result of all this negociating and compromising was, that a biB 
passed both Houses of Parliament with little opposition, j: and ultimately 
(9th of April) received the royal assent, which, while it did give the 
Catholics very real, substantial, and considerable relief, yet fell far short of 
Tdiat they had expected, and of what they might have achieved had they 
gone on as they began. Catholic industry and property were completely 
emancipated from the restraints and burdens of the Penal Code; the army 
and navy, the university, the jury, the magistracy, and the corporations 
were opened to them (i.^ as regards the last, by law, not in fact) ; and to 
these was added the elective franchise, which was destined ultimately (at 
C3are election, thirty-five years afterwards) to accomplish the rest. The 
houses of parliament, the shrievalty, and the high offices of state were still 
withheld. In itself, the measure was unquestionably a valuable and im- 
portant one : yet it fell so far below the high and just expectations of the 
Catholics ; it was so lame and impotent a conclusion to a most hopeftd and* 
magnificent beginning ; it was so little in the spirit of the debates in the 
Convention and the mission of the delegates to London, that the boon 
e:rcited little gratitude — as little as it deserved. The Catholic leaders were 
dissatisfied with the government, with one another, and with themselves ; 
and the Catholic people were dissatisfied with the government and withthenr 
leaders likewise. The favourable crisis was gone— never to come again 
wiiile Ireland was a nation. They had had the ball at their feet, and they 
had let it roll past them. 

There was deep and dexterous poficy in Mr. Pitt's management of this 
Catholic question of 1793. Enough was given to take off the edge of 
popular discontent, to thin the ranks of disaffection, and save Ireland to the 
enopire ; yet what was given was so given as to damp the people's confi^- 
dence in themselves and their leaders, depress the tone of popular feeling, 
and break the strength of any new popular movement. The patriots, Ca- 

• Tone's "Memoirs," voL i., pp. 130*189. 

t Ibid, yoL L, 134-5. 

I It ]» not without interest that we find the name of the Honourable Lieatensiit 
Abthub Welleslet, member for the borough of Trim, in the debates on this billl 
"TlieDuke" speke his maiden speeth in favour of coneession to <'eTir Roman Citiiolic 


tholic and Protestant, had lost some of their very best grieyances ; but, at 
the same time, they had not any great and glorious triumph to point to, as 
an incentive to renewed agitation for the removal of the remainder. The 
Catholic people were not satisfied with the measure of 1793 ; neither were 
they so dissatisfied as to be in a mood for more agitation. They simply 
9ulked ; gave a grudging obedience to the law and constitution which had 
made a grudging recognition of the fact of their existence, and desisted 
from pohdcal agitation, with their grievances half redressed — ^wearied, dis- 
appointed, and out of heart. The bill divided the Catholic body ; it fa^ 
voured their democracy at the expence of their aristocracy ; the great 
mass of the Catholics of Ireland— the industrious and commercial 
classes — ^were now relieved of all serious practical grievances pressing on - 
them .specially as Catholics ^ while their nobility and gentry still remained 
imder sentence of exclusion from all the higher objects of political ambi- 
tion. The Catholic aristocracy were now, practically, the only imenfran- 
chised portion of their community, and the disabilities to which they conti- 
nued subjected were not of a sort to elicit any very lively sympathies fix>m 
the peasantry and traders of the sect. This measure of 1793 was a well- 
aimed blow, too, at the \mion of Protestant and Catholic Irishmen. It . 
tended to detach from that union the Catholic masses ; leaving the Dis- 
senters to complain that they were deserted and betrayed by those whom 
they had so efficiently helped to their rights — that they had done the work 
and fought the battle, and others reaped the spoils of victory ; and so 
leaving the government at liberty and leisure to assail the originators of 
the once so formidable confederacy of United Irishmen. And finally — a 
capital point of Pitt's policy — it weakened tJie Irish government ; exhi- 
bited the Irish legislature in a light at once odious and contemptible ; 
showed that legislature to be what it truly was — at once tyrannical and 
cowardly — ready to grant unanimously, one session, that which, the session 
before, it had almost unanimously refused with contumely. It detached the 
allegiance of the Catholic population from the independent domestic par- 
liament, which had refused while it dared, and conceded only when it must, 
and attracted that allegiance towards the central imperial power which had 
interfered to administer the needed compulsion. The Catholics were now ^ 
taught to put their trust, not in Irish parliaments, but in British cabinets. 
The actual result — ^in all probability, the deliberately and sagaciously de- 
signed result of this whole business of 1793 — ^was to convey to the mind of 
Catholic Ireland the impression, that the true corrective for the tyranny of 
a native parliament lay in the impartial beneficence and over-ruling 
supremacy of the British crown, that justice to Ireland was to be sought 
and found, not in Dublin, but in the court above at Westminster. The 
history of the question of the legislative Union, seven years later, shows that 
the British minister had, on the whole, calculated correctly. In the popu- 
lar agitation consequent on the introduction of that measure, the Catholics 
took no very prominent part : they were, to a great extent, quiescent, and 
in part friendly to the views of government.*, 

* The following account of Mr. Pitt's Irish Catholic policy err^, perhaps, in the wbj 
of overdoing this theory of ministerial intention — attributing everything to policy and 
calculation, where much must have been the mere result of circumstances; but it is, 
we believe, essentially correct : — 

** The wily minister of our sister country encouraged the Catholics when they were • 
weak, then doubted his ability to perform what he had given them reason to ezpect, . 


With this Catholic Relief Bill, the business of conciliation was finished, 
and that of coercion began. The fair promises of the opening week of the 
session had done their work — of throwing dust in the eyes of the " honour- 
able gentlemen opposite" — ^and it was now time to proceed to business. 
The ministerial adoption of certain small *' constitutional" measures (place 
and pension bills, and the like), special favourites witli the Whigs — mea- 
sures which were all very well so far as they went, but of no manner of 
practical value while other things stood as they were — ^had served the pur- 
pose of disarming the hostility and lulling the suspicions of the Opposition ; 
had created for the Government a fictitious political capital of character 
and credit, sufficient to carry them through all immediate difficulties— and 
it was no longer necessary (the ghost of the three millions being laid) to be at 
the pains of keeping up appearances. The gentlemen of the Opposition, in 
the innocence of their hearts, had returned the compUment of the minister's 
adoption of their small pet measures, by strengthening the hands of go- 
vremment with a new loan, new taxes, new soldiers, a militia bill, an 
emigrant bill, and other such strong measures — and only discovered, when 
it was too late, that the interchange of civilities was not intended to be 
perfectly reciprocal. It is almost superfluous to say, that the unanimous 
resolution of the House of Commons, in the first week of the session, in 
favour of parliamentary refonn, was without practical result. The whole 
thing seems to have been, on the part of the ministry, nothing better than 
a hoax. ' Twice was the subject mooted (in February) by the Whigs, 
nothing doubting of ministerial support ; but it was too late. The supplies 
were already voted ; the army and raihtia were secured for that year ; the 
French were driven out of Flanders ; and the Committee of the whole 
House on the state of the representation began and ended its labours with 
Toting that — " Under the present system of representation, the privileges of 
the people, the trade and prosperity of the country, have greatly increased ; 
and that, if any plan he producedy likely to increase these advantages j 
and not hazard what we already possess, it ought to be taken into the 
most serious consideration.'* We need not say that the likelihood of in- 
creased advantages was never made out to the satisfaction of the minis- 
terial mind. 

Things were fast ripening, meanwhile, for an attack on the Reformers 
and Republicans of the north. The first overt act of a directly coercive 
character was the work of the House of Lords. At an early period of the 
session, the Lords, on Fitzgibbon's prompting, appointed a secret oom- 

• KiTTEE, with extensive and searching inquisitorial powers — professedly, 
to " inquire into the causes of the disorders and disturbances which pre- 
vailed in several parts of the kingdom ;" really, to implicate the leading 
Catholic agitators in the crimes of the Defenders, and to show cause, or 
make cause, for putting down tlie Volunteers, who had recently exhi- 
bited signs of new life, and giveii dangerous indications of being inoculated 

adviBed them to apply to their own parliament, resisted their pretensions there, and at 

* length brought all parties to depend upon royal favour, as the only source of relief frOm 
domestic oppression. In this manner he carried off the glory of the measure, and insi- 
diously endeavoured to attach the Catholics to the throne ; dictated to pailiament, and 
rendered the ctAinct of St, James's a court of appeal paramount to the legislature of Ireland"'^ 
6ec " Belfast Politics ; a Collection of Debates, Resolution?, and other proceedings of 
that Town, in the years 1792 and 1793," Preface, p. ix. 



'with French principles and sympathies. This Secret Committee went to 
-work in the genuine Star-Chamber spirit ; examining suspected persons, on 
oath, on the opinions and actions of themselves and others, and fining and 
imprisoning at pleasure all who demurred to their authority or hesitated 
in obeying their mandates.* In due time they were ready with their 
report, in which, while charitably exonerating the general body^ of the 
Catholics from any direct participation in Defenderism, they insinuated 
that there was something suspicious about the relations of certain of the 
Catholic leaders in Dublin to the Defender Associations, and that a portion 
of the funds of the Catholic Convention had been secretly employed in fo- 
menting the Defender disturbances. They laid great stress on the cir- 
cumstance that Mr. John Sweetman, a member of the Sub-Committee, bad 
written a letter to somebody, alluding to something which he had done, or 
caused to be done, with a view to procure legal advice for a Catholic gen- 
tleman committed to gaol on a charge of Defenderism — ^thus proclaiming 
the atrocious doctrine, that contribution for the legal defence of a person 
accused involves participation in a crime, before the fact of the crime itself 
has been judicially proved. The reply of the Catholics was an offer of 
submitting the whole of their proceedings and accounts to pubUc scrutiny. 
The part of the committee's report, most productive of immediate and 
important consequences, runs thus :— 

" An unusual fennent has for some months past disturbed several parts of the north, 
jparticularlt/ the toton of Belfast^ and the county of Antiim, It is kept up and encouraged 
by seditious jxipers and pamphlets, of the most dangerous tendency, printed at very cheap 
and inconsiderable rates in Dublin and Belfast, which issue almost daily from certaia 
societies of men, or clubs, in both those places, calling themselves 'committees ' under 
various descriptions, and keeping up a constant correspondence with each other. These 
publications are circulated among the people with the utmost industry, and appear ta 
be calculated to defame the government and parliament, and to render the people dissatis- 
fied with their condition, and with the laws. The cotiduct of the French is shamefulli/ 
extolled, and recommended to the public view as an example for imitation. Hopes and expec- 
tations have been held up of their assistance, by a descent upon this kingdom, and 
prayers have been offered up at Belfast, from the pulpit, for the success of their arms, io 
the presence of military associations which have been newly levied and arrayed in that 
town. A body of men have associated themselves in Dublin, under the title of the 
* First National Battalion* Their uniform is copied from the French — ^green turned up 
with white, white waistcoat, and striped trowsers, gilt buttons impressed with a harp 
and letters importing ' First National Battalion:' no crown, but a device on the harp, of a 
cap of liberty upon a pike. Several bodies of men have been collected in different parts of 
the north, armed and disciplined under officers chosen by themselves, and composed 
mostly of the lowest classes of the people. These bodies are daily increasing in numbers 
and force. They have exerted their best endeavours to procure military men of ex- 
perience to act as their officers, some of them having expressly stated that there were 
men enough to be had, but that officers were what they wanted. Stands of arms and 
gunpowder, to a very large amount, much above the common consumption, have been sent^ 
within these few months past, to Belfast and Newry, and orders given for a much greater 
quantity, which it appears could be wanted only for military operations. At Bel&st 
iodies of men in arms are drilled and exercised for several hours almost every night, by candle^ 
light; and attempts have been made to seduce the soldiery, which, much to the honour 
of the king's forces, have proved ineffectual. The declared object of these military bodies 
. is to procure a Reform of Parliament ; but the obvious intention of most of them appears 
to be to overawe the parliament and the government^ and to dictate to both. « * « Xhe 

♦ See, in Madden's " United Irishmen," vol. ii., p. 329, &c., the case of Simon 
Butler and Oliver Bond — imprisoned for six months, and ^ned five hundred pounds each, 
for entertaining legal doubts as to the competencjr of the committee to admixiistcir an 
oath and ask criminating questions*^ '' ' ' 


result of the inquiries of the committee is that, in their opinion, it is incompatHle with the 
yuhlic safety atid tranquillity of this kingdom, to permit bodies of men in arms to assemble 
token they please, without any legal authority ; and that the existence of a self-^reated 
repreaettteUive hody^ of any description of the kln^s subjects, taking upon itself the govern « 
ment of them, and levying taxes or subscriptions to be applied at the discretion of such 
representative bodies, or of persons deputed by them, is also incompatible with tJie public 
safety und tranquillity" 

This report — ^the work of Fitzgibbon, and to be accepted, therefore, not 
without limitations — was made early in March, 1793. It was speedily 
followed up by active coercive measures, administrative and legislative. 

The opportunity was favourable. The Catholics were divided among 

themselves, prostrate at the feet of government, in anxious and doubting 

expectation of a '' boon," conscious that the kind and degree of such boon 

were contingent on their good behaviour ; moderate people were alarmed, 

and monied and aristocratic people exasperated, at the horrors of the 

French Revolution ; the exigencies of war (which had already commenced) 

seemed to justify a vigour beyond the law; the Liberal Opposition had been 

so liberal as to supply men and money for the largest needs of a vigorous 

administration ; and the government were of opinion, putting all thing 

toother, that the time was come for strong measures against the northern 

reformers and republicans. The first thing to be done was to put an end 

to the Volunteers^ whose recently indicated sympathies with France made 

them more than ever odious to the ruling powers. The blow was soon 

struck in the following 


"by the lord lieutenant and council of IRELAND. 

** Whereas it appears, by the Report from the Lords* Committee appointed to inquire 
into the causes of the disorders and disturbances which prevail in several parts of this 
kingdom, that certain seditious and ill-affected persons in several parts of the north of this 
kingdotn, jmrticularly i/t the totcn of Belfast, have endeavoured to foment and encourage 
discontent, and, by seditious publications circulated amongst the people, and calculated 
to defame the government and the parliament, have endeavoured to render people dis* 
satisfied with their condition, and with the laws : 

"And whereas it appears to us, by the said report, that several bodies of men have been 
collected into armed associations, and have been levied and arrayed in the said town of Belfast, 
and that arms and gunpowder, to a very large amount, have been sent thither ; that bodies 
of men in arms are drilled and exercised by day and by night, and that the declared object 
of the said armed bodies is redress of alleged grievances, but that the obvious intention, 
of most of them appears to be to overawe the parliament and the government, and to 
dictate to both : 

"And whereas these dangerous and seditious proceedings tend to the disturbance of 
the public peace, the obstruction of good order and government, to the great injury 
. of public credit and the subversion of the constitution, and have raised great alarms 
in the minds of his Majesty's loyal subjects : 

" Now, we, the Lord Lieutenant and Council, being determined to maintain the 
public peace against all attempts to disturb the same, and being desirous to forewarn all 
such persons as might unadvisedly incur the penalties of the law in this behalf, by con- 
curring in practices of a tendency so dangerous and alarming, do hereby strictly charge 
all persons whomsoever, on their allegiance to his Majesty, to- abstain from committing such 
offences respectively : 

" And we do charge and command the magistrates, sheriffs, bailiffs, and other peace- 
officers, having jurisdiction within the said town of Belfast, and the several districts 
adjacent thereto, to be careful in preserving the peace within the same, a7id to disperse 
all seditious and unlawful assemblies ; and, if they shall be resisted, to apprehend the 
offenders, that they may be dealt with according to law. 

** Given at the council-chamber in Dublin, the 11th day of March, 1793. 

" FlTZaiBBON, &c. &c, &c/* 


Ten years before, or one year before, this proclamation would have 
separated Ireland from the crown of Great Britain; it now passed off 
quietly. One faint effort was made, at Antrim, to get up one more Volun- 
teer review ; but the troops were marched out of Belfast to prevent it (the 
loyalty of these troops having been already exemplified in military riots, con- 
ducted at the expense of liberal Belfast publicans and shopkeepers*) — the 
citizen-soldiers gave way, and there was the last op the Volttnteer 
Ahmy of Ireland. Great was the difference between 1778 and 1793. 
The government of Mr. Richard Heron could not protect the people from 
Paul Jones ; the government of Lord Fitzgibbon had learned the new 
Anti- Jacobin doctrine of " protecting the people from themselves." 

Strong administrative were supported by strong legislative measures. 
The opinions of the Lords' Committee on the subjects of "gunpowder" and 
*' self-created representative bodies," were promptly expressed in acts of 
parliament. This session of 1793, which had begun so pleasantly andpro- 
misingly, ended with a convention and vl gunpowder bill. No more Dun- 
gannon Conventions, nor Back Lane ParUaments, nor Assemblies of Delegates, 
Catholic, Protestant, or United, " under pretence of preparing or present- 
ing petitions or addresses to his Majesty or to Parliament." All " assem- 
blies, committees, or other bodies of men, elected, or otherwise constituted 
or appointed to represent the people of this realm, or any number or de- 
scription of the same, or the people of any province, county, city, town or 
other district," were declared to be, thenceforth and forever — parliament and 
convocation excepted — unlawful assemblies. No more Belfast Volunteer 
reviewing, exercising, and parading; no more Liberty Brigades of Artillery, 
with patriotic " labels on their cannons' mouths;" no more Lawyer's Corps 
of Grenadiers " in scarlet and gold ;" that chapter in Ireland's history was 
for ever closed by a gunpowder bill. Ordnance, guns, pistols, gun-locks, 
swords, bayonets, pikes, spears, balls, gunpowder, &c. &c., could thence- 
forth be neither bought nor sold, imported nor exported, kept in a man's 
house nor removed from his house, without government licence, under pe- 
nalty of fine and forfeiture. Large powers to justices of the peace to search 
on suspicion, ensm*ed that the act would not be let sleep idly in the statute- 

It is clear that we are now coming to the " beginning of the end." 
The peaceful, constitutional agitation had failed ; and another agitation, 
not of the peaceful, constitutional sort, could not be far off. Already had 
the Rebellion of 1798 begun to shape itself in men's thoughts. On the 
27th of March, 1793, the founder of the first societies of United Irishmen 
makes a hurried but significant entry in his diary : — 

" Suppression of Belfast VoluDteers — feelings of the North thereupon — probable con- 
sequences of any mishap befalling the English in the war — ten t/iousand Frewh %pould 
accomplish a separation" 

* See " Belfast Politics." Signs of Dumourier and Franklin were especially ob- 
noxious to military loyalty ; And it went ill with a poor blind fiddler who was so un- 
lucky as to strike up " Ca ira," 






The year which followed the suppression of the Volunteers, though harren 
of great events, gave unmistakeable signs of the evil days that were 
coining on Ireland. The storm did not yet burst, nor did the reign of terror 
and torture immediately begin; but the horizon was hourly more and 
more overcast, the atmosphere was charged full of inflammable and ex- 
plosive materials, the elements of confusion were rapidly gaining in density 
and volume, the seeds of every political and social mischief were growing 
fast and fatally up to their destined maturity. There was considerably 
less of " sedition " during this year than in the preceding one, and agita- 
tion was not 60 loud and daring as it had been ; but there was more of 
gloomy and surly discontent — the temper of the people was turning sour — 
and the baneful process was in active operation which converted the de- 
magogue of 1791 and '2 into the "muflled rebel " of 1797 and '8. 

The session of 1793 left the government strong in unconstitutional powers, 
and flushed with the success attendant on then* recent use ; and the people 
divided among themselves, dissatisfied with their rulers and with one 
another, and distrustful of the efficacy of legal and peaceful agitation. 
Concession had failed to conciliate, because it fell short of the measure of 
popular expectation, and was without the grace of justice. In fact, the 
immediate result of the Catholic Relief Bill — valuable and important as the 
concessions of that bill were in themselves — was, practically, to make the 
condition of the Catholic people worse than before. It was easy for a 
strong government to dictate tolerant and liberal votes to a bribed and 
pensioned legislature ; but it was not so easy to improve the temper of 
intolerance and bigotr3% To make the Ethiopian change his skin is a 
task of proverbial difficulty. The ascendency party, though discomfited 
and cast down, was net destroyed. Irritated with the government which 
had humbled and disgraced them, the men of the corporations and grand 
juries were not slow to wreak their wrath on the objects of royal and 
ministerial bounty; and sought to regain, by every sort of persecution 
which law allowed, or into which law might be twisted, the tyrannous 
power of which an act of parliament had, in words, deprived them. For 
the persecution of the statute-book was now substituted the persecution 
of social calumny and hatred, and perjurious legal prosecutions, aimed at 
the characters and lives of Catholic merchants and gentry.* The crimes 
of the Defenders, in which even a Lords' Secret Committee had hesitated 
to implicate the general body of Catholics, were now freely and sweep- 
ingly charged on the popish religion ; men of character and station were 
dragged into assize courts, to answer indictments presented by grand- 

* See, as a specimen, the case of the atrocious Protestant conspiracy against Mr. John 
Fay, of Navan, tried for the murder of the Rev. Mr. Butler. Plowden's "Historical He* 
view," voLii., p.44l. 


jury bigotry, and supported by the hired oaths of witnesses fresh from 
the gaols; and magistrates and country gentlemen warned the circuit 
judges, as they tendered their personal safety, to avoid passing through 
particular towns where the mass of the population happened to be 

The Catholic peasantry reaped as little as their gentiy, of practical and 
present good, from the act of their legislative emancipation. The fran- 
chise which that act conferred on the Catholic tenant was not his, but his 
landlord's — until the year 1828 ; and so far it was nugatory. In other 
respects, it was positively pernicious. The illusory religious equality now 
established between the two sections of the agricultural population did but 
exasperate a fiercer spirit of religious and social animosity — it being ever 
among the worst of the many curses attendant on prolonged misgovern- 
ment and oppression, that justice itself cannot be done without doing mis- 
chief. The Catholic tenant being now as useful to his landlord at elec- 
tions as the Protestant tenant, the two stood on more equal terms in the 
land-market ; the manufacture of votes might go on as prosperously with 
popish as with Protestant materials. The Protestart felt himself aggrieved 
by the intrusion of this new competitor (especially in those counties where 
the population was mixed in pretty equal proportions) ; his monopoly was 
invaded by the same act which wounded his pride and offended his bigotry. 
The consequence was, a renewal and extension of the Peep- of-Day Boy 
outrages, with Defender and Right-Boy outrages to match them. During 
the years 1793 and 1794, the feuds of the middle and lower classes of 
the two sects became more violent than ever. The Defenders and Right- 
Boys grew more daring and formidable. They assembled in large bodies 
by night, to learn the use of arms, and to practise military evolutions 
under captains w^hom society had outlawed into recklessness and despera- 
tion ; they talked not only of tithes, taxes, rent and hearth-money, but of 
liberty and equality, and cutting off the heads of aristocrats ; they acquired 
a discipline and boldness that enabled them to cope with the militia and 
police; and their domiciliary visitations for plunder and murder were 
a terror to six counties. The evil was for a wliile tolerated by the govern- 
ment and its partisans, for the sake of the uses to which it might be 
turned. *' Unprejudiced men," says Plowden, " could not suppress their 
astonishment that these enormities happened under the very eyes of some 
right honourable gentlemen of great weight and influence, and no exer- 
tions were made to protect the peaceful subject, or to punish the lawless 
plunderer. Subsequent events have strengthened the suspicion that some 
of those gentlemen wished to see things arrive at a degree of maturity, in 
order to serve a most base purpose.'* 

The political state of Ireland at this time was as gloomy as its social 
condition. The abortive and mischievous session of 1793 had divided and 
weakened the patriots — half paralysed and half exasperated them. Grattan 
and the Whigs, stultified by the successful chicane of the government iq 
winning Whig support on false pretences, had lost greatly in character ; 
discredited and disgraced, both in parliament and out of it, they could 
neither resist the bad measures of administration nor moderate the violence 
of the popular leaders. The United Irislimen distrusted the parliamentary 

♦ Plowden's "Historical Review," vol. ii., p. 441. 


Opposition as trimmers— loid the Oppontion disliked and feared the 
United Irishmen as fanatical anarchists. The latter were fast losing^ 
ground. ^The pmdent, the timid, and the moderate ceased to share their 
counsels or s^well their ranks. The temporary quieting of the Catholics 
had deprived them of their hest allies in the business of agitation ; the 
disbanding- of the Volunteers had cut off for the present all hope of sue* 
cessful ulterior proceedings. Since the proclamation of the 11th of 
March, they had lost that kind of moral force which has been defined as 
i^ physical force in perspective :" and to any other description of moral 
force the administration of a Fitzgibbon was impenetrable. The United 
Irish Societies obviously held their existence now only on the tenure of 
the sufferance of government, which good-naturedly let them linger on so 
long as their strong resolutions and eloquent addresses might be useful in- 
famishing matter for the consideration of the law officers of the crown : 
the administration which had ventured to suppress the Volunteer army, 
and had taken military possession of the northern metropolis of United 
Irish patriotism, would quite well know how to deal, when convenient, 
vrith a little knot of demagogues and agitators in Dublin. Altogether, 
Ireland Tvas much changed from what it had been. The unanimity, hope- 
fulness, and elate confidence of 1792, were no more. The United Irish- 
men of Dublin, in addressing Simon Butler and Oliver Bond on the termi- 
nation of their six months' imprisonment (16th August, 1793), bewail 
hitterly the decline of the popular cause, and the decay of public spirit 
and "virtue:— 

** Gentlemen, your country is much your debtor. But we must suppose you by this 
time too well experienced in the mutability of public opinion to expect that she will 
for the present acknowledge the debt, much less return the obligation ; that she will 
either sympathise with what you have suflfered, or partake in out heartfelt joy at your en* 
largement. Indeed, you %oill scarcely now know your country , in a few months so much alieredm 
Indisposed to condole or to congratulate, desponding without reason, exhausted without 
effort, she sits on the ground in a fit of mental alienation ; unconscious of her real. 
nudady, scared at erery whisper ; her thousand ears open for falsehoods from abroad, 
her thousand eyes shut against the truth at home ; worked up by false suggestions 
and artful insinuations to such a madness of suspicion, as makes her mistake her 
Nearest friends for her deadliest foes, and revile the only society which ever pursued her. 
welfare with spirit and perseverance, as attempting at her life with the torch of an in* 
cendiary and the dagger of an assassin." 

Early in 1794, the government felt itself strong enough to risk the 
chances of trial by jury. This year is signalised by the commencement 
of that series of state prosecutions which forms so prominent and inter- 
esting a feature in the history of the epoch whose annals we are writing. 
The first victim was Abchibald Hamilton Rowan, with whom we are 
already acquainted as a zealojis and courageous agitator ; a man of the 
highest character, public and private, of ancient family and large fortune, 
and of great political and social influence. In December, 1792, the United 
Irish Society of Dublin, at a meeting at which Dr. Drennan was chairman, 
and Rowan secretary, had issued an address to the Volimteers, the purport 
of which wa« — " Citizen soldieks, to akms ! To your formation was 
owing the peace and protection of this island, to your relaxation has been 
owing its relapse into impotence and insignificance, to your renovation must 
be owing its future freedom and its present tranquillity. We address you 
without any authority save that of reason i in four words lies all our power. 


For his share, or alleged share, in distributing this ** seditious libeV' 
Bowan was tried on an ex-officio information before Lord Chief Justice 
Clonmell and a Dublin jury, on the 29th of. January, 1794 (the business 
having been postponed so long, to give time for a proper arrangement of 
the jury list), found guilty, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a 
fine of five hundred pounds. This beginning of the State Trials was a sig- 
nificant specimen of the mode in which political justice was thenceforth 
to be dispensed in Ireland. A partisan judge,t a packed jury, and a false^ 
witness, were the ministers of justice on this occasion, as on so many ; 
others during the years that followed. One of the jury was objected to, 
as holding a place under the Crown ; but the objection was over-ruled by; 
the Court, on the Attorney-General observing that " it went against all that 
was honourable and respectable in the land ;" and two others were sworn 
to have declared, before the trial, that " Ireland never would be quiet till 
Napper Tandy and Hamilton Rowan were banished or hanged." 

Rowan was imprisoned accordingly ; but his residence in Newgate was 
of considerably shorter duration than the terms of his sentence imported. 
Towards the end of April, in the same year, he was further charged 
with the crime of high treason; having been implicated, by conversations 
while in prison, in the scheme of the unfortunate William Jackson for a 
French alliance. The charge was one which he could not safely afford to . 
meet, and he determined on effecting his escape. The mode in which he- 
accomplished this bold and difficult enterprise is thus related by himself,- 
in his most interesting autobiogi-aphy :— 

"Messrs. Emmet, Tone, and Dowling had called on me the day I expected to 
have been brought before the Privy Council. I mentioned to them my plan of escape^ 
•which I had commenced, after Jackson's arrest in the Fives Court, with Mr. Dowell,.. 
jun., the under gaoler. I told him that I had been pressed for money, and had sold a. 
small estate, which was to have been paid for long since, but the purchaser, or rather 
the attorney, had started an objection, on account of my signing the deeds while in 
prison, by which my heirs might hereafter contest the sale; but the attorney had said also, 
that by an additional expense of about 50/. or 100/. the risk might be evaded ; that I 
looked upon this as a mere cheating of the attorney; that I would rather give twice the 
sum to any person, and that I would consult Mr. Dowling. 

•' The next day was the 1st of May; I told Mr. Dowell that it had been suggested to 
me that he might easily assist me, if he would take me out of the prison just so long a& 
to enable the witnesses to attest the signature being made out of the precincts of the 
gaol ; and I declared that if he could contrive that, I should rejoice to give him the 100/. 
instead of the attorney. He said he would ask the head gaoler, and perhaps he would 
consent to it. I objected to this, by saying that the head gaoler might think that 
during the course of my imprisonment he might take the same liberty at other times, 
and therefore he had better not make the application. Shortly after, he asked me 
whether he might not tell his father; to which I immediately consented; and it was 
agreed that he should give me an answer. A little before dinner-hour he came 
and desired me to be ready at twelve o'clock. This I immediately communicated to my 

* lliis was the occasion of Curran's well-known " genius of universal emancipation," 
perhaps the most admired and oftenest-quoted passage in modern forensic oratory. 

f One instance may suffice, of the temper of this Lord Chief Justice. When it was 
known that the trial was preparing for the press, Lord Clonmell called on Byrne, the 
publisher, and said, " Take care, sir, what you do. I give you this caution ; for if there 
are any reflections on the judges of the land, by the eternal G — , I will lay you by the heels "-^ 
Autobiography of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, p. 207. 

The fact is of no great consequence, still it was the fact, that, on the occasion charged 
in the information, the libel was not distributed by Rowan, but by a person of the name 
of WiUis. 


friend Dowling, wlio proposed to meet me at that hour on horseback, at the end of 
Sackyille-street. We had a Swiss butler who had lived with us some years, to whom I 
laid open this pait of the plan, and I directed a table to be laid out above stairs, with 
wine, &c., in a front two-pair-of-stairs room, the door of which commanded a view of 
the staircase. He was instructed, when he came to the door, to show us up stairs, and 
say the gentlemen had called, but they would shoxtly return. 

** About twelve o'clock Mr. Do well appeared in the prison, with his sabre and pistols 
in his girdle, and thence accompanied me to my own house. On our arrival there, the 
servant did as he was instructed. I then sat down with Mr. Dowell to take some re- 
freshment ; in the meantime I had prepared the purse with the hundred guineas, which 
I threw across the table to him, saying I was much better pleased with his having 
it than six-and-eiff/ifpenni/. And here I must record that he put the purse back to me, 
saying he did not do it for gain; but I remonstrated, and he relented. At this moment 
I accused myself of my insincerity ; but, as Godwin describes in Caleb Williams, 
under somewhat similar circumstances, I was not prepared to ' maintain my sincerity at 
the expense of a speedy close to my existence.' 

** I then said, as we could not remain long absent, if he had no objection, I would 
step into the back room opposite, where my wife and eldest boy slept. To this he im- 
mediately consented ; and 1 desired I might be called when the gentlemen returned. I 
entered, changed my clothes for those of my herd, who had opportunely come to town 
that day with a cow for the children. I then descended from the window by a knotted 
rope, which was made fast to the and reached down to the garden. I went to 
the stable, took my horse, and rode to the head of Sackville-street, where Mat Dowling 
had appointed to meet me. Here I was obliged to wait nearly half an hour before Dow- 
ling appeared. His delay was occasioned by some friends having called on him to 
supper; Mat never being the first to break up company, was obliged to remain until 
the party separated of themselves, lest he should be suspected of being concerned in my 
escape. Some of my friends advised my taking my pistols with me ; but 1 had made up 
my mind not to be taken alive, so I only put a razor in my pocket. At last Dowling^ 
came up, and we set out for the house of Mr. Sweetmau, who was a friend of his, and 
lived on the sea-side at Sutton, near Baldoyle, by whom, and his wife, I was received 
with the utmost kindness ; and in a short time afterwards Dowling returned home. 

"As soon as day broke, Mr. Sweetman set out for Rush, in hope of procuring a smug- 
gling boat that would take me to France. On his arrival there, he found the place in 
great confusion, for Mr. Dowell, with a military party, was searching several of the 
houses ; but there were two in particular, in either of which he expected to find me, as 
they belonged to some persons who had been confined in Newgate, and had frequently 
dined with me ; but they had been released, as it was only for some revenue affair they 
were in confinement. Mr. Dowell, however, immediately suspected them to have 
sheltered me, and was then searching their houses. Thus disappointed at Hush, Mr. 
Sweetman said he thought I might be secreted somewhere in Ireland ; but I persisted in 
my wish to get to France. He then asked me whether I would lisk myself in a little 
fishing wherry of his, which lay moored close to his house. This I accepted willingly, 
if any person not in my situation would attempt the same risk. He replied that he 
would make inquiry on that subject ; and ere long, he told me he had met with two 
brothers of the name of Sheridan, who agreed to land a person in France, and to find a 
third, if necessary, to man the boat. 

" In the course of the day, proclamations, offering 1,000/. from government, and 500/. 
from the city, with as much made up of minor subscriptions from gaolers and others, 
for my apprehension, were dispersed through all the environs of Dublin. * 

" It being determined on to employ Mr. Sweetman's boat, it became necessary to 
purchase several articles, such as a compass, charts and provisions, for which he was 
obliged to go to Dublin. On his return I met him, and shortly after we were joined by 
the two Sheridans, one of whom, taking out of his pocket one of the proclamations, 
showed it to Mr. Sweetman, and said, * It is Mr, Hamilton JRotcan we are to take to 
France.' < Yes,' replied Mr. Sweetman, * and here he is ;' and introduced me to them, 
immediately the elder brother said, * Never mind it; hy J — * ic€ will land him safe,* 

*'The wind being fair, it was determined to sail that night, but not to mention any- 
thing to Murphy, who was the third person whom they had engaged, until we were all on 
board. Every thing went well until we were near Wrexford, when the wind changed, 
and blew so hard that we were driven back to take shelter under Howth. * * ♦ 
The weather had cleared before morning, and we again spread our sail with a fair wind. 
In crosttog the British channel, while we were nearer to England than to France, we 


found otmeWes enveloped hy a British fleet coming Up the dutnnel; bat the sh^ 
^idi serred as coaroy kept between them and the French coast, so that we passed un« 
observed. As we neared France, we were saluted by the fire of oo* of the numerous 
small batteries which were erected along the shores. This was for want of colours ; so 
I borrowed Sheridan's night-cap, which by chance was red, filled it with straw, stuck it 
on a boat-hook, and lashed it to the helm as a boraiet de liberie, and thus sailed unmolested 
to the mouth of a small bay under the fort of St. Paul de Leon, called RoscofF. Here we 
saw a small fishing boat, which I boarded, and having divided what cash I had remain- 
ing in my purse equally among my crew, I ordered them to make for England, and the 
fishermen to take me to the town. This transaction passing in view of the town, the 
quay was crowded with inquirers, and I was taken up to the Hotel de Yille. I was 
detained there some time before any one of the constituted authorities arrived, and was 
then very minutely searched for papers. The Dublin Evening Post, which contained the 
proclamation, I handed to the president, who was commandant of the fort. I told him 
my story; to whidi he coolly answered, after a few questions, that as by my own 
account 1 had escaped from prison in my own country, he would take care I should 
not escape from him ; and he ordered me to be confined in the upper room of the Town 
House, with a sentry in the room, until the mayor of the town should arrive and examine 
me. I then requested that a letter from me to the Comite de Salut Public in Paris 
should be forwarded immediately, which he promised, and it was forthwith put in ex- 
ecution. It was now near the close of day ; and, fatigued from the voyage and agitated 
spirits, I laid myself on a straw mattress which was placed in the corner of the room, 
and fell asleep."* 

The further course of Rowan's life does not belong to this history. We 
may, however, mention that after staving about a year in France, where 
he had more than one narrow miss of being condemned d la lanteme as a 
spy of Pitt's, he got a passport to the United States under an assumed 
name, and resided in America for several years. He at length received 
the royal pardon, returned to England in 1806, and (his property having 
been saved from the legal consequences of his outlawry, by a most unususd 
circumstance — ^the goodnatured interposition of Lord Clare) took up his 
abode at the ancient castle of Killileagh, on his patrimonial estate in the 
county of Down. More fortunate than the great majority of his contempo- 
raries and colleagues in treason and sedition, Rowan lived on to a hale old 
age, honoured and beloved, in the discharge of every social and civic duty ; 
lived to attend Rotunda meetings for civil and religious liberty, to see the 
Catholics emancipated, and the Imperial Parliament reformed. He died in 
his eighty-fom-th year, on the 1st of November, 1834.t 

The cause of Rowan's flight was, we have said, his finding himself impli- 
cated in the business of Jackson. The trial of the Rev, William: Jack- 
son, for high treason, is one of the most memorable events in the history of 
Ireland at this period, both for the tragic terror of its closing scene, and for 
the exhibition it gave of the dark and wicked policy which from this time 
began to .rule in the counsels of the government. Mr. Jackson was an 
irishman, and a clergyman of the established church. Little known in his 
profession, he had, some years before the time of which we write, acquired 
an equivocal descrfj)tion of literary notoriety as the advocate of the cele- 
brated Duchess of Kingston, in controversy with Foote, the farce-writer ; 
in which capacity he had become acquainted with her grace's attorney, si 

♦ Autobiography of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, pp. 213-220. 

t The fire of Rowan's youth continued burning almost to the last In 1825, on Mr. 
George Robert Dawson and the present Sir Robert Peel attacking the Catholic Asso- 
ciation, for having received with loud cheers the subscription of an *' attainted traitor/* 
the old man tlien, in his 75th year, immediately came over to London to demand satisfitc^ 
tion. The offensive words were explained as ** not inteaded to be taken persoiusUf." 

IBISH BEBi:t£lOK.' • 91 

man of the name of Cockayne. At the beginning of tjie French revolution 
he went over to France, where he resided for several years, and recom- 
mended himself to the revdutionary authorities as a man of political in* 
fonnation and talent. He was now destined to be the first agent in those 
negociations between the French government and the Iiish patriota wkich 
fill so important a place in the history of the ensuing years, and the first * 
victim of that infamous spy system which was beginning to develope itself 
as a leading feature in the Irish policy of government. Early in 1 794, 
Jackson was sent to England as a secret envoy from the ComiU de 
Salut JPuhlie, instructed to inquire int© and report upon the political 
condition and temper of Great Britain and Ireland, with especial reference 
to the probabilities of popular support in the event of a French invasion of 
propagandism and fraternity. On his arrival in London, he opened the 
object of his mission to Cockayne. Cockayne, judging that the trade of 
government spy and informer was a safer and more lucrative business than 
treason, revealed the whole matter without delay to Mr. Pitt, and received 
the minister's instructions to attend Jackson to Ireland as a spy (a king's 
messengei going with them as a second spy on both), to aid and abet all his 
projects until they should be sufficiently matured to amount to legal treason, 
and to draw as many of the patriots as possible within the meshes of the 
law. The object of Mr. Pitt, as the progress of the affair showed, was 
less to detect treason for the sake of prevention or suppression, than to 
create it for the uses of a policy of terrorism ; it was not to watch and 
check the machinations of one man, but to manufacture the discontents of 
many into a ccmspiracy that might be available for strengthening the hands 
of government. The proceeding was, as a recent writer calls it, " a 
voyage of discovery in search of treason, under the superintendence of Mr." 
Pitt, who allowed his emissary to proceed to Ireland, not to detect -a con- 
spiracy, but to form one, and thus increase the dupes of one- party and the 
victims of the other — a singular instance of perfidy and cruelty."* 

Our voyagers landed in Ireland on the 1st of April, 1794. Their dis- 
coveries were of less importance and extent than their employer probably 
expected. The result clearly shows that, whatever vague hopes and dim 
prospective anticipations might have begun to dawn on the minds of cer- 
tain leaders of the patriots, there did not exist in Ireland at this time any 
such thing as a French party, seeking domestic revolution through foreign 
intervention. Jackson's mission was unexpected by the popular leaders ; 
his very name was unknown to them ; he had not even an introduction to 
any individual of note or influence ; and his overtures were received, for 
the most part, with suspicion and distrust. His only political acquaintance 
in Ireland was one Mr. Leonard M'Nally, a barrister and flaming United 
Irish patriot ; through whom alone he was enabled to eflect that limited 
amount of mischief of which his visit was productive. It is not neces- 
sary to recount all the details of this wretchedly weak and foolish business ; 
the patriotic dinings at M*Nally's house, where Cockayne would pre- 
tend to be asleep (only the shrewd footman could see '' the glist&nmg 
of his eyes through his fingers^') while the guests were warming into 
treason over their winef — the prison colloquies with Rowan— the proposals 

* '< Memoirs of the life and T\me» of the Right Hon. Henry Gr&ttaa," vol. iv., p. 105. 

t See "Life of Carraa/' vol. i., pt 2»». From a raanuecriptnot^in Rowan's copy 

of Emmet's and Macneven's *< Pieces of Irish History," it appears that LordEdwaid' 

92 KisTomr of the 

of a French emb&ssy to Tone— the ' intercepted letters of Jackson to 
his employers, &c. The result of one month's lahour was that, on the 
28th of April* Jackson was committed to Newgate on a charge of high 
treason ; Tone retired to his house in the country, to write historic me- 
moirs, while his ai-istocratic friends were negociating with the government 
to get him permission to leave Ireland as soon as he could arrange his 
affairs ; Rowan escaped from prison ; and Mr. M'Nally was found, on his 
death some years afterwards, to have been for a considerable time in the 
enjoyment of a yearly pension from government of 300^.* 

From various causes, Jackson's tnal did not take place until a year 
after his commitment. It is but just to say that during the whole of this 
period he was treated with every possible indulgence, and was allowed the 
free enjoyment of the society of his friends.f At length, on the 23rd of 
April, 1795, he was tried, and convicted on Cockayne's evidence. It is 
worth noting that this trial, the first for high treason that had taken place 
in Ireland during more than a century, established a precedent of porten- 
tous significance for the legal history of the following years— viz., that, in 
Ireland, one witness was sufficient to convict of high treason. As the act 
of 7 William III., requiring two witnesses in cases of treason, did not ex- 
tend to that country, the point remained to be decided on the principles 
of common law ; with a dictum of Lord Coke on one side, and counter 
dicta of Judge Foster and Sergeant Hawkins on the other. It was at the 
expense of poor Jackson that this nice question was set at rest. J 

A week after his conviction, on the 30th of April, 179o, Jackson was 
brought up for judgment ; when a scene ensued, equalling, in dramatio 
strangeness and horror, anything that is to be found in the Causes Celebres* 

** On the morning of the 30th of April, as one of his counsel was proceeding to court, 
he met in the streets a person warmly attached to the government of the day. The cir» 
cumstance is trivial, but it marks the party spirit that prevailed, and the manner ia 
ivhich it was sometimes expressed : ' I have (said he) just seen your client, Jackson, 
pass by on his way to the King's Bench to receive sentence of death. I always said he 
-was a coward, and I find I was not mistaken ; his fears have made him sick — as the 
coach drove by, I observed him, with his head out of the window, vomiting violently.* 
llie other hurried onto the court, where he found his client supporting himself against the 
dock. His frame was in a state of violent perturbation, but his mind was still collected. 
He beckoned to his counsel to approach him, and making an effort to squeeze him 

Fitzgerald was marked out as one of Cockayne's victims ; but he declined to hold any 
conversation on the subject. See Madden's " United Irishmen," Second Series, vol. ii., p. 44. 

* Dr. Madden ("United Irishmen," vol. i., pp. 206-7) mentions this and ether in«^ 
stances in which the government adopted the nefarious policy of pensioning the legal 
advisers of the -United Irishmen. 

+ The following anecdote is highly honourable to him : — " A short time before his 
trial, one of his friends remained with him to a late hour of the night. When he was 
about to depart, Mr. Jackson accompanied him as far as the place where the gaoler 
usually waited upon Euch occasions, until all his prisoners' visitors should have re- 
tired. They.found the gaoler in a profound sleep, and the keys of the prison lying beside 
him. * Poor fellow !* said Mr. Jackson, taking up the keys, * let us not disturb him ; I 
have already been too troublesome to him in this way.' He proceeded with his friend to- 
the outer door of the prison, which he opened. Here the facility of escaping naturally 
struck him. He became deeply agitated ; but, after a moment's pause, ' I could do it,* 
said he, * but what would be the consequences to you, and to the poor fellow who haa 
been so kind to me ? No ! let me rather meet my fate.' He said no more ; but, locking 
the prison door again, returned to his apartment." — ** Life of Curran," vol. !., p. 275. 

t The law of the two countries has since been assimilated, by an act introduced by 
the late Lord Holland. 


with his damp and nerveless hand, uttered in a whisper, and with a smils of mournful 
triumph, the dying words of Pierre, 

* We have deceived the senate.' 
The prisoner's counsel having detected what they conceived to be a legal informality in 
the proceedings, intended to make a motion in arrest of his judgment ; but it would 
have beeu irregular to do so until the counsel for the crown, who had not yet appeared, 
.should first pray the judgment of the court upon him. During this interval, the violence 
of the prisoner's indisposition momentarily increased, and the Chief Justice, Lord Clon- 
mell, was speaking of remanding him, when the Attorney-General came in, and called 
upon the court to pronounce judgment upon him. Accordingly, * the Rev. William 
Jackson was set forwlird,' and presented a spectacle equally shocking and affecting. His 
body was in a state of profuse perspiration; when his hat was removed, a dense steam 
was seen to ascend from his head and temples ; minute and irregular movements of 
convulsion were passing to and fro upon his countenance ; his eyes were nearly closed, 
and, w^hen at intervals they opened, discovered by the glare of death upon them, that 
the hour of dissolution was at hand. When called on to stand up before the Court, he 
collected the remnant of his force to hold himself erect ; but the attempt was tottering 
and imperfect : he stood rocking from side to side, with his arms, in the attitude of 
firmness, crossed over his breast, and his countenance strained by a last proud effort into 
an expression of elaborate composure. In this condition he faced all the anger of the 
offended law, and the more confounding gazes of the assembled crowd, llie clerk of 
the crown now ordered him to hold up his right hand. The dying man disentangled it 
from the other, and held it up, but it instantly droppsd again. Such was his state, 
when, in the solemn simplicity of the language of the law, he was asked, * What he had 
now to say, why judgment of death and execution thereon rfiouW not be awarded 
against him, according to law ?' Upon this Mr. Curran rose, and addressed some argu- 
ments to the court in arrest of judgment. A legal discussion of considerable length 
ensued. The condition of Mr. Jackson was all this while becoming worse. Mr. Curran 
proposed that he should be remanded, as he was in a state of body that rendered any 
communication between him and his counsel impracticable : Lord Clonmell thought it 
lenity to the prisoner to dispose of the question as speedily as possible. The windows 
of the court were thrown open to relieve him, and the discussion was renewed ; but the 
fatal group of death-tokens were now collecting fast around him ; he was evidently in 
the final agony. At length while Mr. Ponaonby, who followed Mr. Curran, was urging 
further reasons for arresting the judgment, their client sunk in the dock"* 

The conclusion of this frightful scene is given as follows, in Ridgway's 
Report of the Trial (London, 1795) :— 

" Lord Clonmell : — * If the prisoner is in a state of insensibility, it is impossible that 
I can pronounce the judgment of the Court upon him. If Foster had not mentioned 
a like instance (the case of an old woman brought up at the Old Bailey) humanity and 
common sense would require that he should be in a state of sensibility.' 

" Attorney-General : — * On that ground I have no objection to his being re- 
manded.' * ♦ ♦ • 

" Here the prisoner becoming perfectly insensible, Dr. Thomas Waite, who was pre- 
sent in the court, was desired to go into the dock to him. He, after some examination, 
informed the Court, there was every apprehension he would go off immediately.' . 

**.Mr. Thomas Kinsley, who was in the jury-box, said he would go down to him ; he 
accordingly went into the dock and in a short time informed the Court that the prisoner 
was certainly dying. 

*• The Court ordered Mr. Kinsley to be sworn. — ^He was sworn accordingly, 

** Lord Clonmell : * Are you in any profession ?' 

**Mr. Kinsley : * I am an apothecary end druggist.' 

** Lord Clonmell : — * Can you say you understand your profession sufficiently, so as to 
speak of the state of the prisoner ?' 

** Mr. Kinsley : I can. I think him verging to eternity.; he has every symptom of 
<deat!i about him.' 

** Lord Clonmell : ' Do you conceive him insensible, or in that state as to be able to 
bear the judgment, or what may be said fur or against him ?' 

• " Life of Curran," vol, i., pp. 277-281. 


*< Mr. Kinsley : * Quite the contrary. I do not think he can hear his judgment.* 

** Lord Clonmell: ' Then he must be taken away. Take care, in sending him away, 
that you do not any mischief. Let him be remanded imtil further orders.' 

" The Sheriff informed the court that the prisoner was dead, 

*' Lord Clonmell : * Let an inquisitioni and a respectable one, be held on the body. 
You should carefully inquire when and by what means he died.' " 

The court then adjourned ; the hody of the prisoner remaining in the 
dock, unmoved from the position in which he had expired, until the fol- 
lowing day, when an inquest was held. A large quantity of poison was 
found in his stomach. It appeared in evidence that, on the morning of 
his being brought up for judgment, the wretched man had taken arsenic 
and aquafortis in lus tea. The verdict of the jury spared the insults 
which law then awarded to the felo de se. There was a splendid funeral, 
attended by several barristers and members of parliament. 

We know not of anything in history, or in fiction, more sternly terrible 
and tragic than this : dry points and precedents of law debated in presence 
of a man in the agonies of a hideous death — ^writs and captions learnedly 
discoursed on, while arsenic and aquafortis were in active service of a pro- 
cess unknown to the law books — amotion for arrest of judgment argued 
with nicest legal casuistry, while the culprit was already fkr on his way 
out of reach of all judgment except one-^a dead man remanded until 
further orders. 

The prosecution of Rowan and the treason of Jackson give significant 
indication of the ripening of events towards their crisis. On the one side, 
the packing of juries, the hiring of evidence, and the employing of spies 
and informers to manufacture crime for ministerial uses; on the other, 
agitation turning into conspiracy, and French connexion substituted for 
conventions of Volunteer delegates ; these are the new elements which, 
from the year 1794, begin to develope themselves in the distracted world 
of Irish politics. Both parties are drawing closer to each other, coming 
to a clearer understanding of the real practical question between them, 
taking then* ground, marshalling and recruiting their forces, and getting 
ready for the ultimatum of rebelHon and civil war. 

On the 4th of May, in this year, the Dublin police visited Taylor's 
Hall in Back Lane — where the United Irish meetings had succeeded to 
those of the Catholic Convention — dispersed the assembled patriots, seized 
their papers, and dissolved the first Society of United Irishmen. When 
we hear of " United Irishmen " again, it will be not of agitators but of 
conspirators. In place of strong resolutions and eloquent addresses, we 
shall have illegal oaths, secret pass- words, military reports, midnight drill- 
ings, French correspondence, and all the other apparatus of incipient 





Tbhe year 1795 opened brightly for Ireland. The 4th of January saw 
the arrival at Dublin Castle of a liberal and honest Lord Lieutenant— the 
friend of Burke and Grattan, the political ally and colleague of the Duke 
of Portland, the nephew of the Marquis of llockingham — a man of known 
integrity and kind-heartedness, and far- going liberal opinions, whose 
name was itself a pledge of a thorough change of men and measures in 
aU departments of the state. Rumour positively affirmed — ^what Eabl 
Fitzwilliam's acceptance of office sufficiently implied — that he came 
over as the minister-plenipotentiary of peace and justice, emancipation and 
reform ; empowered to give to the Catholics religious equality, to the whole 
Irish people just and paternal government. In particular, it was known 
that the leaders of the Liberal party in parliament had been sent for to 
England the previous autumn, to assist, with their suggestions and advice, 
in the new arrangement of the Irish ministry — that Grattan had been 
closeted with Mr. Pitt on the Catholic question (by special desire, not of 
the patriot, but of the minister) — ^and that the result of the interview was 
considered satisfactory. On the whole, it seemed to be an understood 
thing, that the Catholics were to receive the last instalment of their eman- 
cipation, immediately on demand ; and it was presumed that the rest of 
the new policy of which the new Viceroy was the representative, would be 
pervaded by the same spirit of justice to Ireland. 

Earl Fitzwilliam was received with enthusiastic delight by all classes 
and parties of the people — the extreme ascendency bigots, and the ultras 
of the discomfited and dispersed United Irishmen, alone excepted. Ad- 
dresses of congratulation poured in from all the principal cities and 
towns of the kingdom ; which addresses the Viceroy answered in as ex- 
plicit language, on the subject of popular government in general, and the 
Catholic claims in particular, as was consistent with the decorum of vice- 
regal etiquette. All Ireland rejoiced, with a unanimity which it had not 
known for thirteen years past, at the return to power of the men of 1782. 
Not one Protestant corporation — scarcely one individual— came forward 
to interpose objections to the expected emancipation and reform, which 
were to complete at last the work that the Volunteers had left imperfect. 
Everything looked bright and full of promise. By this mission of Earl 
Fitzwilliam, Mr. Pitt had ensured the speedy and entire pacification of 
Ireland — if he meant to keep faith with Ireland ; if not, it was a 
master-piece of perfidy and incendiarism, a provocative of rebellion, of 
^ more stimtdant efficacy than the whole penal code together. 

The opening of parUament (22nd of January) was full of happy augury 
for the character and work of the session. The viceregal speech did not, 
it is true, say a great deal, but there was a tone of unwonted earnestness 
and heartiness even in its generalities ; and it had one paragraph in par-^ 


ticular, on the subject of popular education, which expressed much and 
seemed to imply more ; — the Protestant Charter-schools were mentioned 
disparagingly, as only " partial " in the advantages derived fromi them, 
and it was hoped that, '' as oircumstances had made other consider- 
ations connected rclth that important subject highly necessary, the 
wisdom of parliament would order everything relating to it in the manner 
test adapted to the occasions of the several descriptions of men rvhich 
composed his Majesty* s faithful subjects in Ireland'^ The address in 
answer to the speech was moved by Mr. Graitan, and carried without a 
division ; and at the same time he presented a petition from the Dublin 
Catholics, for immediate and complete emancipation, the first of a vast 
number which came rapidly pouring in from every part of the kingdom. 
On the 12th of February, at the express wish of the Lord Lieutenant, Mr. 
Grattan moved for leave to bring in a Catholic Relief Bill ; and leave was 
given accordingly, with only three dissentient voices. Everything gave 
promise of a tranquil, pleasant, and highly useful session : emancipation 
first, and reform next, with repeal of the Convention Bill and reduction of 
pensions to follow, were looked for with a universal and undoubting faith. 
The liberality of the administration was responded to, in happy oblivious- 
ness of the experience of 1793, by at least an equal liberality on the part 
of the Opposition. Rather, there was no Opposition. Men and money 
were voted at a rate which had no previous example in Irish history, des- 
pite the cautionary suggestion of one unbeliever (Mr. Duquery) who 
** thought it right that, before they voted the money of the people, they 
should know what the people were to get." All men believed that Ireland 
was saved : and Burke wrote to Grattan, on the 3rd of March, " I feel as 
much joy as my poor broken heart is capable of receiving, from the man- 
ner in which the Irish session has opened." 

On the 19th of March, a British cabinet council unanimously decided on 
Earl Fitzwilliam's becall, as " a measure necessary for the preservation 
of the empire." 

It does not«be]ong to the object of this history to unravel the ministerial 
intrigues by which this disastrous consummation was accomplished, or to 
assign the precise motive, or combination of motives, which prompted this 
outrageous breach of faith with the expectant and confiding Irish people. 
Earl Fitzwilliam himself thought it was the doing of the Beresford family 
and faction, whose enormous political monopoly (coupled, as it was, with 
much " imputed malversation ") he found it necessary, at the commence- 
ment of his administration, to break down.* Others have seen in the 
business a systematic scheme for goading Ireland into rebellion, with a 
view to prepare the way for the legislative union ;t not "that there is any 
essential incongruity between the two explanations. The return of the 
Beresfords to power was the shortest road to rebellion — there was 
rebellion in the very name. It does not greatly signify, however, whose 
doing it was ; in any case, the perfidy was the same, and the mischief 
was the same. The duplicity and treachery of Pitt in this matter, as 

* See his Letters to the Earl of Carlisle (1795). Burke's letter to Grattan, of the 
Sth of M^ch (quoted in " Life of Grattan," vol. iv., p. 202^, opens a glimpse into a 
whole world of intrigue and cabal. 

t Barrington's " Historic Memoirs/' toI. IL, pp. 241-2. 


shown in the Honest and manly letters of Jail Fitzwilllam, have rarely 
been surpassed in Anglo-Irish, or any other history. The dismissed and 
duped Viceroy says : — 

•* From the very beginning, as well as through the whole progress of that fatal busi- 

' ness — for fatal, I fear, I must call it — I acted in perfect conformity with the original 

outline settled between me and his Majesty's ministers, previous to my departure from 

i Loudon. Prom a full consideration of the real merits of the case, as well as from every 

^ information I had been able to collect of the state and temper of Ireland, from the year 

1 793, I was decidedly of opinion that not only sound policy but justice required, on the 

part of Great Britain, that the work which was left imperfect at that period ought to be 

' completed, and the Catholics relieved from every remaining disqualification. In this 

L dpinion the Duke of Portland unifohnly concurred with me; and when the question 

^ came under discussion, previous to my departure for Irelaxid, I found the cabinet, with 

Mr. Pitt at their head, strongly impressed with the same conviction. Had I found it 

\ otherwise^ I never would have undertaken the government, I at first proposed that the additional 

' indulgences shonld be offered from the throne. The very best effects would be secured 

by this act of unsblicited graciousness. Itut to this proposal objections were started 

that appeared of sufficient weight to induce the adoption of another plan. I consented 

not to bring the question forward on the part of government, but rather to endeavour to 

keep it back until a period of more general tranquillij^y, when so many material objects 

might not press upon the government. But, as the principle was agreed on, and the 

necessity of its being brought into full effect was universally allowed^ it was at the same time 

resolved that if the CathdUds shekilH appear determined to stir the business ^ and bring it before 

parltctmentjlwas to gite it a handsome support on the pdrt of government, 

'* I was^uasooner landed, and informed of the real state of things here, than I found 
that the question would force itself upon my immediate consideration. Faithful to the 
system that had been agreed on, and anxious to attain the object that had been com- 
mitted to my discretion, I lost not a moment in gaining every necessary information, or 
in transmitting the result to the British cabinet. • As early as the %th of January , I u>rote 
to the Secretary cf State on the sub/tct. I told him that I trembled about the Roman 
Catholics ; that I had great fears about keeping them quiet for the session ; that I found 
the question already in agitation ; that a committee was appointed to bring forward a 
petition to parliament, praying for a repeal of all remaining disqualifications." 

After furthur inquiries, and personal interviews with the Catholic 
leaders, he again wrote to the Secretary of State (15th January) ; when, 
he i 

" I concluded by declaring that I should not do my duty, if! did not distinctly relate 
it as my opinion, that not to grant cheerfully on the part of government all the Catholics 
wished for, would not only be exceedingly impolitic, but perhaps dangerous; that in 
doing this no time was to be lost ; that the business would be presently at hand, and 
that the first step I took would be of infinite importance ; that, if I received no very 
peremptory directions to the contrary, I should acquiesce — I meant in the time, in the mode 
of proceeding, and in the extent of the demands; for, as to the measure considered 
generally, I could conceive no necessity to wait for any new direction on which to 
decide. Of this I reminded the Secretary of State. * Convinced,' I said, * as we all are, 
of the necessity, as well as fitness of the measure taking place at no distant period, I was 
decidedly of opinion that any attempt to defer it would be useless, if not dangerous.' " 

To all which not one syllable of censure, remonstrance, objection, or 
even cautionary suggestion did the minister send back in reply, during the 
first ^\e weeks of Earl Fitzwilliam's viceroyalty, Letter after letter was 
sent to Dublin Castle, without a hint of doubt or difiiculty on the subject. 
It was not till after the Irish parhament had, on the faith of the promised 
emancipation and reform, concurred, with a nearly unexampled unanimity, 
in grants of men and money larger than had ever been known before ; it 
was not till after the heart of the people had been fully set on these 
measures ; it was not till the 9th of February, that the British cabinet 


began answering the Lord Lieutenant's letters— speaking of the Catholic 
question as a nefo subject y asking for '* information " to enable them to 
form an opinion as to the '^ policy, expediency, safety, and necessity " of 
the measure, and cautioning the Viceroy against '^ committing himself," 
while they knew that, with their sanction implied and expressed, he had 
committed himself and them over and over again already. 

The astounded Viceroy replied by referring his colleagues to aU that had 
previously passed on the subject, expressing, for about the twentieth time, 
his conviction of the infinite peril of even seeming to hesitate, and refusing' 
** to be the person to raise afiame m the country ^ which nothing short of 
arms mould be able to keep domn^^ He was taken at his word ; a 
** flame in the country " being, it would appear, precisely the thing which 
the British minister desired. On the 25th of March, the last minister of 
peace and justice to Ireland was attended to the shore by the parliamentary 
leaders and other distinguished individuals, dressed in black, followed by 
a vast concourse of persons of all classes, sects, and parties ; and Ireland 
was left in the hands of the Beresfords, the Tolers, and the Fitzgibbons, to 
be got ready, as soon as might be, for martial law and mihtary execution. 

Thus were the Irish people again made victims to what Flood called 
their " generous credulity." When Grattan was on his way to an inter- 
view with Pitt, in the month of October previous, Mr. Serjeant Adair h%d . 
kindly warned him — ^*^ All that is to be done should he set down in 
nfriting^for if you have any dealings with Pitt^ he'll cheat you. I never 
would act with him, unless I had pen, ink, and paper." The caution, 
unfortunately, was not heeded, Mr. Grattan's generous and confiding nature 
not comprehending the sharp practice of official diplomacy. He conunitted 
the enormous blunder of imagining that, in official honour and morality, 
a tacit mutual imderstanding is as good as a signed and witnessed memo- 
randum of agreement. 

It was said by an Irish Opposition member (Sir Laurence Parsons), 
while Earl Fitzwilliam's recaU was still only a matter of imauthorised 
rumour — " If the British Cabinet have agreed to the Catholic measure, 
and then withdraw their support from it, and with it Lord Fitzwilliam, 
the demon of darkness could not have done more mischief. If the 
minister perseveres, the army must he increased to myriads, and every 
man must have dragoons in his house.^^ The prophecy was not designed, 
probably, to be taken quite literally ; but it received, at no distant date, 
a proximate fulfilment, in the Free Quarters of 1798. 



Irei^aitd in 1795 and 1796— gathebing op the stobm — ^newobgani- 
zation of united ibishmen — peep-of-day boys again — ^wixliak 
tsrssham and john thbustout — battle op the diamomd^fibst 

okaj9^ge lodge — indemnity and in8ubbecti0n acts domiciliaby 

"visits and abbest8 — ^the bebel abmy getting beady. 

On the 31 st of March, 1795, the new Lord Lieutenant, Earl Camden, 
entered Dublin, and made his way to the Castle, under convoy of a detach- 
ment of cavalry with drawn swords. It was a dark day for Ireland — 
ominous of worse that were to follow. There was much breaking of win- 
do'ws, and some bloodshed. The Archbishop of Armagh was insulted in 
his coach by the mob, the Speaker's and Mr. Beresford's houses were 
attacked— and the Lord Chancellor, after a hot chase from the Castle to 
his residence in Ely-place, was wounded in the forehead with a paving stone. 
It -was a characteristic opening of the new administration, that the Viceroy's 
first official act was a proclamation offering rewards for the apprehension 
and conviction of rioters. 

All this, though " extremely disagreeable," as Mr. Hardy says, was by 

no means siuprising. Lord Camden was, personally, not unpopular, and 

had some hereditary claims on the favourable regards of Irislunen,* — ^but, 

whatever virtues he may have possessed, Ireland could know him only 

as the representative of a perfidious and anti-national poHcy. He came to 

undo, and worse than undo, the work of conciliation which Earl Fitz- 

William had begun — ^to restore the momentarily disturbed status in quo 

of ascendency and incipient rebellion, aggravated by recent disappointment 

and insult. His very presence in Ireland was an offence ; his mission was 

a breach of faith, a casus belli — ^his arrival was a declaration of war. Earl 

Fitzwilham's recall " lost to England the heart of Ireland."t It turned 

over the country to the ascendency men and the United Irishmen. The 

Beresfords and Fitzgibbons now came back to power, with the appetite of 

tyranny whetted by a two months' fast, more than ever disposed to strong 

and cruel measures ; and the patriots despaired of agitation, thought no 

more of emancipation and reform, but put tiieir trust in conspiracy, and set 

their hearts on revolution. *' From this time," says Plowden, " the very tint 

of moderation seems to have been effaced from every transaction that 

affected the public weal." Henceforward there were in Ireland only two 

parties — ^the tyrant party, and the traitor party ; the government and the 

people had entered, once for all, into a state of war. Well might Grattan 

say (in his reply to the address of the Dublin Catholics), " I tremble at the 

return to power of your old taskmasters — that combination which galled 

the country with its tyranny, insulted her by its manners, exhausted her by 

its rapacity, and slandered her by its malice. Should such a combination, 

once inflamed, as it must be now, by the favour of the British court and 

the reprobation of the Irish people — return to power, I have no hesitation to 

• He was the son of the Lord Camden who gave the Belfast Volunteers the sage but 
i;^beeded counsel to " keep it up." 
•f Grattan. 


say that they mil extinguish Ireland^ or Ireland must remove them.** 
In five years from that day the prophecy was fulfilled, in the former 
alternative, by the " extinguishment " of the Irish nationality. 

The spirit of popular discontent soon embodied itself in a fit organization. 
Within six weeks after the arrival of the new Viceroy, the more resolute 
and far-going of the old United Irish leaders re-constituted their association 
(10th May, 1795) on anew principle, and with bolder ain^s. The old 
name was still retained, but the objects and methods of the new Society of 
United Irishmen were considerably different from those of the societies of 
1791. The original test of reform principles was now changed into an 
oath of secrecy and fidehty ; and the pledge to emancipation and reform 
was expanded and generaUsed, by the omission of the word parliament^ 
into a, coi^ession of political faith virtually equivalent to repubhcanism, 
though not ostensibly avowing it. The question of monarchy was carefully 
left an open question, by the adoption of a test so worded that republicans 
and constitutional reformers coidd each subscribe it as an expression of 
their respective creeds. The oath was as follows :-t- 

'*In the awful presence of God, I, A. B, do yoluntarily declare that Twill persevere in 
endeavouring to form a brotherhood of afifiection among Irishmen of every religious 
persuasion, and that I wiU also persevere in my endeavoun to obtain an equal, fidl, and 
adequate representation of aU the people of Ireland. 

** I do further declare that neither hopes, fears, rewards, nor punishments, shall ever 
induce me, directly or indirectly, to inform on or give evidence against any member or 
members of this or similar societies, for any act or expression of theirs done or made, 
collectively or individually, in or out of this society, in puxsuance of the spirit of this 

This new United Irish organisation was constructed with the utmost 
ingenuity and caution, for the ends of secrecy and unity of action. • It was 
as cunningly complicated a piece of political machinery as the world has 
seen ; a sort of pyramidical hierarchy of sedition, with an infinite number 
of small local societies for its base, gradually towering up through the 
nicely fitted gradations of baronial, county, and provincial committees, to the 
apex of a national executive directory. The local associations were not 
allowed to consist of more than twelve persons each, who were to be resi- 
dent, as nearly as possible, in the same street or neighbourhood. By each 
of these primary assemblies of twelve a secretary was chosen ; and the 
secretaries of five of such associations constituted what was called a lower 
baronial committee, with power to direct all . the proceedings of their 
constituents. The next step in the ascent was the upper baronial com- 
mittee of ten, composed of delegates from that number of lower baronials. 
Then came the district or county committees, to which each of the upper 
baronials within the district or county sent one member. Above these, 
again, were the provincial committees, constituted by the delegation of two 
or three members from each of the county committees in the province ; 
and at the head of the whole was the metropolitan or national Executive 
Directory of ^ve, elected by ballot from, the provincial committees, in so 
ingenious a way that the electors were kept in entire ignorance of their 

* See the whole of the constitution and rules of the second Society of United 
Irishmen, in Madden, vol.. ii., Appendix. 

This author gives a curious collection (tbid., p. 372, &c,) of the secret signs, pass- 
words, and emblems in use among the members of the Union. 


own representatives, the knowledge of the individual chosen being confined 
to the secretary of the provincial committee. The Executive Directory, 
thus constituted, had the supreme and uncontrolled command of the whole 
body of the imion. In conformity with the general principle of secrecy 
which pervaded the whole of this curious compound of representation and 
despotism, the mode of doing business was, for one member only of 
the directory to transmit the orders of the five to the secretary of the 
provincial committee — the provincial secretary alone was to communicate 
with the county secretary alone — and so on, through the upper and lower 
baronial secretaries, down to the primary assemblies of twelve. Such was 
the new Society of United Irishmen ; an organisation without precedent ot 
parallel in the annals of conspiracy; a widely-diffused and variously-rami- 
fied confederacy of affiliated associations, on the principle of popular lepre- 
sentation in the ascending scale, and arbitrary power in the descending 
scale. It was an experiment, new in history, how far the zeal and enthu- 
siasm of a people could be organised to work with the secrecy and unity 
of a court of Star-Chamber. 

Of the views and expectations of the United Irish patriots at this period, 
the following account is ^ven in the Memoir of the Origin and Progress 
x>f the Irish Union, drawn up by O'Connor, Emmet, and Macneven,* while 
in prison, and handed in to the Irish government :-^ 

** The first of these societies was, as we best recollect, in the year 1795. In order to 
«ecure co-operation and unifoimity of action, they organised a system of committees, 
baronial, county, and provincial, and even national ; but it was long before the akcleton 
of this organisation was filled up. While the formation of these societies was in agita- 
tion, the iriends of liberty were gradually, but with a timid step, advancing towards 
republicanism. They began to be convinced that tir tcould be as easy to obtain a revolution 
t»M a reform, so obstinately was the latter resisted ; and as the conviction impressed 
itself on their minds, they were inclined not to give up the struggle but to extend their 
▼lews. It was for this reason that in their test the words are, * an equal representation 
of aU the people of Ireland,' without inserting the word ' parliament.' This test em- 
braced both Uie republicans and reformers^ and left to future circumstances to decide to 
which point the common strength should be directed ; but still the whole body, we are 
convinced, would rejoice to stop short at reform. Another consideration, however, led 
the minds of reflecting United Irishmen to look towards a republic and separation from 
England. This wm the war with France. They clearly perceived that their strength 
was not likely to become speedily equal to wresting from the English and boroughinterest 
in Ireland even a reform ; foreign assistance would therefore, perhaps, become necessary. 
But foreign assistance could only be hoped for in proportion as the object to which it 
would be applied was important to the party giving it. A reform in the Irish parlia- 
ment was no object to the French : a separation of Ireland from England was a mighty 
one indeed. Thus they reasoned : Shall we, between two objects, confine ourselves to 
the least valuable, even though it is equally difficult to be obtained, if we consider the 
relations of Ireland with the rest of Europe ? 

** Whatever progress the united system had made among the Catholics throughout 
Che kingdom, until after the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, notwithstanding many resolu- 
tions which had appeared from them manifesting a growing spirit, they were considered 
not only as entertaining an habitual spirit for monarchy, but also as being less attached 
than the Presbyterians to political Uberty. There were, however, certain men among 
them who rejoiced at the rejection of their claims, because it gave them an opportunity 
of pointing out that the adversaries of reform were their adversaries, and that these 
two objects never could be separated with any chance of success to either. They 
used the recall of that nobleman and the rejection of his measures to cement together 
in political union the Catholic and Presbyterian masses. 

• Quoted by Plowden, " ffistorical Review," vol. ii., p. 535. None of them were 
actually members of the Union until September or October in the year 1796. 


** The modem societies, for tkmr proieetion agamst mfarnurt and proseeuHons, had 
introduced into their test a clause of secrecy. They did more — they changed the 
engagement of their predecessors into an oath; and mwUual eoi^idenee increased when 
religion was called m aid t^ mutual secrecy." 

How far the increase of mutual confidence was justified, and the hope of 
protection against informers and prosecutions realised by the system of secrecy 
and oath.taking, will appear as we proceed. It does not seem to have 
occurred to these dexterous oi^anisers, that the expedients which they 
adopted to exclude treachery from their counsels were excellently calcu- 
lated to conceal treachery, if once introduced; that the mystery which 
characterised their proceedings was at least as likely to excite suspicion 
as to elude detection ; that every false and artificial security is a real peril ; 
that the sanction of such *' rehgion " as is in an oath is, as a general rule, 
either useless or needless, inoperative in those cases in which the swearer's 
honesty does not render it superfluous ; and that, on the whole, all this 
elaborate machinery of mutual mystification was exactly the thing to create 
spies and informers, by offering a fine field for their labours, and raising 
the market-price of their discoveries. The *' mutual confidence " in ''mutual 
secrecy" was, in the sequel, the ruin of hundreds and thousands of Ireland's 
best and bravest. For the present, however, things looked well. The 
new societies of United Irishmen increased and multiplied, with the pro- 
gress of the insolent misgovemment which had called them into being ; 
and events seemed to be fast fulfilling Lord Charlemont's prediction, '' If 
we do not make some exertion, next Christmas-day may see the people in 
the hands of the United Irishmen.""* 

The whole state of Ireland at this period betokened the rapid approach 
of some hideous national convulsion. There seemed a general snapping 
and sundering of all civil ties ; society swung loose from its moorings of 
law and order ; the old established chronic maladies of Ireland were fast 
becoming acute, and verging to a crisis. While political agitation was 
transformed into conspiracy, loud sedition hushed into secret treason, and 
the National Convention exchanged for the Executive Directory of five, the 
prsedial agitation by pike and torch was everywhere growing up to the 
dimensions of civil war. The year 1795 was a year of much prosperity for 
the Defenders. From an early period of the summer, the outrages of these 
peasant insurgents increased daily in formidableness and extent They 
appeared in armed bodies of several himdreds, rescuing prisoners, attacking 
magistrates and police, and murdering individuals obnoxious to them. In 
most counties of the kingdom associations were formed, and subscriptions 
entered into among the gentry, for defence of life and property (these new 
respectable Defenders being little more scrupulous than their humbler 
brethren about adhering to the strict object of their association) ; and, '' in 
some counties," says Plowden, " gentlemen were forced to keep in their 
houses a constant military guard to preserve them and their families fix)m 
depredation and murder." At the summer assizes several Defenders were 
tried for high treason, and duly convicted and executed ; but the mischief 
did not receive even a temporary check, for the deeper mischiefs of which 
it was the sign continued in unabated activity. In the month of September, 
this war of &e Defenders and Peep-of-Day Boys raged in its native county 

* Hardy'B " Life of Lord Charlemont," vol. ii., p. 348. 


(Armagh) on a scale of unexampled extent and ferocity. The two parties 
remained for several days openly under arms, preparing for a general 
engagement, with the fuU knowledge and under the very eye of those 
authorities whose duty it was to have restrained them ;"* and at length, 
on the 2l8t of September, was fought the Battle of the Diamond — still 
commemorated in the political convivialities of the ascendency men — ^in 
which the Defenders were routed with great slaughter. 

T*his 21st day of September, 1795, is memorable in Irish history for an 
event of far more fatal import than even the Battle of the Diamond. On 
this day, at the house of a man named Sloan, in the village of Loughgall, 
in Armagh, not far from the Diamond battle-field, the first Obange 
LiOi>0£ was formed. Any detailed account of the tests, oaths, rules, and 
proceedings of the Orange Association, under the more systematic form 
-which it assumed within two or three years after its commencement, we 
are not concerned to give here.f The Orangemen of 1795 were simply 
Peep-of-Day Boys under a graver name, organised by secret oaths and tests 
into a denser and compacter body, reinforced by the gradual accession of 
Protestant wealth and respectability, encouraged by a fuller assurance of 
magisterial and ministerial protection, and stimulated by a more ferocious 
spirit of partisanship and bigotry. From the date of this fatal 21st Sep- 
tember, the county of Armagh was the scene of a course of systematic and 
unchecked atrocities, such as, in any other country than Ireland, would be 
considered as transcending the ordinary license of civil war. Robbery, arson, 
kidnapping, and murder— carried on as a system for weeks and months to- 
gether, by day and by night, with the scarcely disguised sympathy and ap- 
proval of the magistracy, and the merest make-believe of resistance on the 
part of the government — were the first fruits of an organisation which (whether 
the '* purple test " or oath of papist extermination be historical or mythi- 
cal we need not now inquire) had no other practical aim than the exter- 
mination, by fire and sword, of the whole community of CathoHcs from the 
whole province of Ulster, beginning with Armagh county. The true 
character of the Orange system, and of the Protestant ascendency for which 
Orangeism is but another name, and of the government that looked on with 
folded hands while the exterminators were going forward with their work, 
appears sufficiently from the following often-quoted address of Lord 
Gosford, as governor of Armagh, to a meeting of the magistrates of the 
county, on the 28th of December :— 

** It is no secret that a persecution, accompanied with all the circumstances of ferocious 
cruelty which have in all ages distinguished that dreadful calamity, is now raging in 
this county. Neither age, nor sex, nor even acknowledged innocence as to the late dis- 
turbances, is sufficient to excite mercy, much less to afford protection. The only crime 
which the wretched objects of this merciless persecution are charged with, is a crime of 
easy proof — it is simply a profession of the Roman Catholic faith, A lawless banditti 
have constituted themselyes judges of this new species of delinquency, and the sentence 
they pronounce is equally concise and terrible : it is nothing less than a confiscation of 
all property, and immediate banishment. It would be extremely painful, and surely un- 
necessary, to detail the horrors that attend the execution of so wide and tremendous a 

* Charles Teeling*s " Observations on the History and Consequences of the Battle of 
the Diamond" (quoted by Dr. Madden). 

t The Report of the parliamentary Committee of 1835 on Orange institutions and 
practices, is well worth being studied by all who would know what Protestant Ascend- 
ancy means. — The Edinburgh Review for January, 1836, contains a useful analsysis of 
the disclosures elicited by that investigation. 


proscription, which certainly exceeds, in the comparatiTe number of those it consigns to 
ruin and misery, every example that ancient or modern history can afford : for where 
have we heard, or in what history of human cruelties have we read, of more than half 
the inhabitants of a populous couniy deprived at one blow of the means as well as 
the fruits of their industry, and driven, in the midst of an inclement winter, to seek a 
shelter for themselves and their hapless families where chance may guide thesn ? This 
is no exaggerated picture of the horrid scenes now acting in this county ; yet surely it is 
sufficient to awaken sentiments of indignation and compassion in the coldest heart. 
These horrors are now acting, and acting toith impunity. The spirit of impartial justice 
(without which law is nothing better than tyranny) has for a time disappeared in this 
county ; and the supineness of tiie magistracy of Armagh is a topic of GonverBation in 
e?eiy corner of this kingdom." 

Two montha later, Mr. Grattan* was allowed to say, in his place in 
Parliament, without the slightest contradiction in the debate, and without 
the slightest influence on the division, that 

" The object of the Armagh disturbances was the extermination of all the Catholies of 
that county. It was a persecution conceived in the bitterness of bigotry, carried on 
with the most ferocious barbarity, by a banditti who, being of the religion of the state, 
had committed with the greater audacity and confidence the most horrid murders, and 
had proceeded from robbery and massacre to extermination ; they had repealed by their 
own authority all the laws lately passed in favour of the Catholics, had established, in 
the place of those laws, the inquisition of a mob, resembling Lord George Grordon's 
fanatics, equalling them in outrage, and surpassing them far in perseverance and 

** Their modes of outrage were as various as they were atrocious; they sometimes 
forced by terror the masters of families to dismiss their Catholic servants ; they some- 
times forced landlords by terror to dismiss their Catholic tenantry ; they seized as de- 
serters numbers of Catholic weavers; sent them to the county gaol, transmitted them to 
Dublin, where they remained in close prison until some lawyers from compassion 
pleaded their cause and procured their enlargement — nothing appearing against them 
of any kind whatsoever. Those insurgents, who called themselves Orange Boys, or Pro- 
testant Boys — that is, a banditti of murderers, committing massacre in the name of God, 
and exercising despotic power in the name of liberty ; those insurgents have organised 
their rebellion, and have formed themselves into a committee, who sit and try the Catholic 
weavers and inhabitants, when apprehended, falsely and illegally, as deserters ; this rebel- 
lious committee they call the Committee of Eiders, who, when the unfortunate Catholic 
is torn from his family and his loom and bi ought before them, sit in judgment upon his 
case; if he gives them liquor or money, they sometimes discharge him; otherwise, 
they send him to a recruiting officer as a deserter. They had very generally given the Ca- 
tholics notice to quit their farms and dwellings; which notice is plastered on their 
houses, and conceived in these short but plain words — ' Go to Hell, Connaught will not 
receive you— fire and faggot ! Will. Thbesham and John Thbustout.' They followed 
these notices by a faithful and punctual execution of the horrid threat ; soon after 
visited the house, robbed the family, and destroyed what they did not take ; and finally 
completed the atrocious persecutions by forcing the unfortunate inhabitants to leave their 
dwellings and their trade, and to travel with their miserabla. family, and with whatever 
their miserable family could save from the wreck of their houses and tenements, and 
take refuge in villages as fortifications against invaders, where they described diem- 
selves, as I have seen in their affidavits, in the following manner ; * We (mentioning 
their names) formerly of Armagh, weavers, now of no fixed place of abode or means of living,* 
^c. In many instances this banditti of persecution threw down the houses of the 
tenantry, or what they call ' wrecked' the house, so that the family must fly or be buried 
in the grave of their own cabin. The extent of the murders that have been committed 
by this atrocious and rebellious banditti I have heard, but have not heard them so 
ascertained as to state them to this house ; but, from all the enquiries I could make, I 
collect that the Catholic inhabitants of Armagh have been actually put out of the pro* 

* February 22, 1796, on his motion for bringing the crime of " exterminating his 
Majesty's subjects" within the operation of the Insurrection Act. 


tection of the law; that the maglBtrates have been supine or partial ; and that the horrid 
banditti have met with complete success, and from the magistracy with very little dis- 

Of the extent of these Armagh outrages we are not aware that any pre- 
cise account has eyer been taken. It was generally believed, however, 
PJk>wden says, that from five to seven thousand Catholics '* had been forced 
or burned out of the county of Armagh, and that the ferocious banditti who 
had expeUed them had been encouraged, connived at, countenanced, insti- 
gated, or protected by the government." The effect of these detestable 
prooeedings^ and <^ the Orange organisation in general, was to bring large 
and rapid accessions to the numbers of the Umted Irish Societies. The 
Memoir already quoted fiays-^ 

" To the Armagh persecution the union of Irishmen is most exceedingly indebted. 
The persons and properties of the wretched Catholics of that county were exposed to 
the merciless attacks of unOrange faction, which was certainly in many instances uncon- 
trolled by the justices of peace, and claimed to he, in allf supported hy government. When 
these men found that illegal acts of magistrates were indemnified by Accsuuonal statutes, 
i^nd the courts of justice shut against them by parliamentary barriers, they began to 
think they had no refuge but in joining the union. Their diispositions so to do were 
much increased by finding the Presbyterians, of Belfast especially, step forward to 
espouse their cause, and succour their distress. We will here remark once for all, 
what we most solemnly aver, that wherever the Orange system was introduced, particularly 
in Catholic counties, i^ vof uniformly observedthat thenun&rs of the United Irishmen incrcMed 
most astonishingly. The alarm which an Orange Lodge excited among the Catholics made 
them look for refuge by joining together in the united system; and, as their number 
was always greater than that of bigoted Protestants, our harvest was tenfold." 

While the constituted authorities in Ulster wer^ tolerantly looking on 
at the most savage excesses of party violence, allowing the powers of law 
to sleep idly in their hands, their brethren in other parts of the kingdom 
were busy in the exertion of what the government cant of the day called 
a " vigour beyond the law." In the autunm and winter of this year, the 
government, seriously alarmed at the progress of Defenderism, sent Lord 
Carhampton, the Commander-in-Chief, into the disturbed districts of the 
west, to quell insurrection and restore tranquillity. His lordship's mode of 
discharging the trust committed to him is thus admiringly described by Sir 
Bichard Musgrave : — 

" In each county he assembled the most respectable gentlemen and landholders in it, and 
having, in concert with them, examined the charges against the leaders of this banditti, 
who were in prison but defied justice, he, with the concurrence of these gentlemen, 
setit the most nefarious of them on board a tender stationed at SUgo, to serve in the King*t 

* An " Old Officer of Cavalry," who, as a cornet in the 24th Light Dragoons, ac- 
companied his regiment to Ireland in 1795, and was stationed at Loughgall, writes 
(in October, 1839)— 

«* There I remained several months, and duiing that period I witnessed the excesses 
committed by the Orange party, who now began to form themselves into lodges, and the 
dreadful persecutions to which the Catholic inhabitants were subjected. Night after night I 
have seen the sachings and burnings if tJ^ dwellings of these poor people. * * * Many of the 
Orangemen, notwithstanding the secrecy with which they conducted their proceedings, 
were discovered on private information, and brought to trial. But most of them». 
through the influence of their party, escaped, either altogether or with slight punish- 
ment. In one case, a most atrocious one, a man had been sentenced to death. This mati's 
sentence was respited. And I well remember the whole country round being iUumincUed with 
bonfires in manifestation of the joy of the Orangemen on that occasion*" — See " LifSe of 
Grattan,** vol. iv., p. 235. 


iroqpM. By this bold measure, founded in obvious principles of political necessity, he 
completely restored peace in the disturbed counties. The loyal inhabUant$andthegr€md 
juries in them thanked Lord Carhampton for his wise and salutary exertions"* 

That is to say, th« Commander-in-Chief and the '^ most respectable gen- 
tlemen and landholders '' assumed to 'themselves the power of discretionary- 
transportation, without trial or the form of trial. The victims of this 
infamous piece of tyranny — ^to the number, it is said, of about thirteen hun- 
dred — ^were tied on cars and dragged away for shipment, weeping in 
bitter agony and crying aloud for trial. The '' disaffected," adds the 
loyal baronet, '^ raised a great clamour," and meditated — ^in some instances 
commenced — ^prosecutions and actions for damages against the military and 
magisterial kidnappers. But it shortly afterwards appeared that parlia- 
ment was of the same opinion with the '' loyal inhabitants and grand 
juries," and deemed the exertions of the authorities " wise and salutary : " 
all legal proceedings were promptly quashed, within the first week of the 
ensuing session, hy an Act of Indenmity. 

The session of 1796 was industriously employed by the government, 
which now wielded an unchecked ascendency in parliament,! in adding new 
combustible and explosive matter to the distracted state of Ireland. Con- 
cession and conciliation were now not pretended ; it does not appear to have 
been considered necessary, for the ssd^e of appearances, to allow even their 
desirableness in the abstract. Coercion — ^prompt, absolute, unsparing, and 
undiscriminating — was assumed without disguise, as the first duty of a 
government towards its natural enemy, the people ; any second duty was 
tmrecognised in the political philosophy of that day. The session began 
(21st of January,) with a Lord Lieutenant's speech adverting with "regret" 
to the " disturbances," and to the existence of " secret and treasonable 
associations of dangerous extent and maUgnity," complimenting the magis- 
tracy on their " successful and meritorious exertions," and calling for 
additional powers " to restore a proper reverence for the laws of the 
country," — and with an Attorney-General's speech, stating that " conspira- 
cies to murder were frequent, and that the idea of assassination had be- 
come as familiar as that of fowling.^'' The two measures of the session 
were an Indemnity Bill and an Insurrection Bill. The former we have 
already mentioned. It legitimated, by a retrospective operation, all the 
enormities of Lord Carhampton and his revolutionary conunittee of re- 
spectable gentlemen and landholders : thus " striking the poor out of the* 
protection of the law, and the rich out of its penalties." The Insiurection 
Bill was designed to supersede all necessity for any future act of indemnity, 
by at once explicitly legalising the class of outrages for which indemnity 
was then needed, and making discretionary power of transportation an 
established incident of the magisterial office. The temper of the govern- 
ment and the parliament very significantly appeared in the debates 
preliminary to the passing of tins measure, and in the Attorney-General's 
resolutions (22nd of February) on which it was founded. The crimes of 
the Defenders were sedulously enmnerated, and held up, in sufficient 
amplitude of detail, to legislative abhorrence ; the crimes of the Orange- 

* ** Memoirs of the Rebellions in Ireland," vol. i., p. 175. 

t The Whigs never rallied after the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam. From this time the 
forces of the parliamentary Opposition rarely mustered above sixteen votes— often not 
half that number. 


men were not touched even by remotest allusion. Enough was said of the 
seizure of arms and the murder of witnesses in the Defender districts : 
nothing was hinted of the extermination of fourteen hundred Catholic 
families in Armagh. The houghing of Protestant bullocks in the south 
was made more of than the murder of Popish human beings in the north. 
The eniuneration of disturbed districts did not include the vicinity of Lough- 
gall ; nor were the Armagh exterminators brought, either by general 
description or by specific mention, within the category of the et cetera of 
" disorderly persons " legislated against by the act in company with the 
Defenders. The chief provisons of this Insurrection Act were, that it made 
the administering of unlawful oaths felony of death ; * it empowered a 
majority of seven magistrates to declare their county in a state of insur- 
rection ; and it authorised any two magistrates to break open houses at 
any hour of the day or night to search for arms, to imprison every man 
whom they might find absent from his house between sunset and sunrise, 
arrest all vagrants having no visible means of livelihood, or otherwise 
suspected, and send them to serve on hoard the king's fleet. Thus, as 
the Whig Club complained in their petition, " the country was divided into 
two classes, or formed ''into two distinct nations, living under the same 
king, and inhabiting the same island ; one consisting of the king's magis- 
trates, and the other of the king's subjects — ^the former without restraint, 
and the latter without privilege." Transportableness for life, with impri- 
sonment, hard labour, and exposure to cannon-shot — at the discretion of any 
two magistrates — was now formally recognised as a standing condition of 
existence in Ireland. On the same night that the Indemnity and Insiurec- 
tion Bills were introduced into the House of Commons, a motion of Curran's 
for appointing a committee to inquire into the state of the poor and the 
wages oflaJ^mr^ was negatived by a majority of nearly ten to one. 

On the Idth of April parliament terminated its labours, under a viceregal 
assurance that '* the vigorous measures adopted to suppress insurrection 
and outrage promised the most salutary consequences, and would demon- 
strate to the people the firmness and temper of parliament." 

The promise of salutary consequences was so far from being realised 
during the ensuing summer, that on the 13th of October parliament was 
again summoned, to make further demonstrations of its firmness and 
temper. There was not much work left for legislation to do ; but what 
• there was, was done quickly. " At two in the morning, the House was 
moved for leave to bring in a bill to repeal the Habeas Corpus Act ; at 
five minutes past two, the bill was read a first time, and, after a grave 
and mature deliberation, the bill was ordered to be read a second time, 
and was read accordingly at ten minutes after two: its principle was 
then fully considered and approved of, and at fifteen minutes after 
two it was laid before a committee of the whole House."! The measure 
was carried, of course, against a minority of seven. Three days afterwards, 
the House heard the last of the Catholic question : Mr. Grattan's motion for 
emancipation was supported by the unusually large minority of nineteen. 
Parliament shortly afterwards separated, leaving the country in the hands 
of the Orangemen, the magistrates, the Defenders, the United Irishmen, 
and the army. 

« " Felony " was deemed preferable to "freasoti^*' in this case, because it deprived 
the prisoner of the benefit of a counsers address to the jury, 
t Gurran, in the debate of 14th October, 1706. 

108 filBTOBT OF THE 

All through the antumn «nd winter of this year the war went on, grow- 
ing in force and volume with every successive week. The new powers 
given hy the Insurrection and Haheas-Corpus-Suspension Acts were 
used to the uttermost ; the system of domiciliary visits was carried on with 
all its usual concomitants of licensed insolence and cruelty;* the number 
of districts officially declared " disturbed " rapidly increased, especially in 
Ulster, within wluch districts every man was imprisoned in his own 
house from sunset to sunrise, under penalty of transportation by law or 
military execution without law. ** The gaols were now," says an eye- 
witness and sufferer, ** crowded with prisoners ; many private houses were 
tmmed into military provosts, floating prisons had been established, and 
the loathsome tenders stationed round the coasts received the surplus of 
the victims which the land prisons were inadequate to contain. A con- 
siderable portion of the army was dispersed in small cantonments through 
die most populous and fertile districts, and, under pretence of searching for 
the disaffected, they scoured the country, committing the most wasteful 
depredations. The people naturally fled at their approach. Absence was 
construed into guilt; and, disappointed of their victim, the army laid 
waste, with an indiscriminate hand, house, furniture, com, cattle ; and 
sometimes innocent and unoffending inmates have perished in the flames 
which enveloped their property in ruin."f 

The United Irishmen meanwhile went on prosperously, notwithstanding 
tiiat the administering of unlawftd oaths was " felony of death/' Death had 
lost its terrors for men who had no longer a country worth living in. 
'* The statute remained an absolute dead letter, and the numbers of the 
body augmented beyond belief." J At this time (October, 1796) the plan 
and working of the Union underwent a most important modification. The 
formation of the Protestant Yeomanry corps|l by government, which had 
taken place shortly before, suggested the necessity of a corresponding and 
counter-movement on the part of the patriots. Accordingly the society of 
United Irishmen, from a civil, became a military organisation ; the associa- 
tion of political agitators and schemers drilled itself into a rebel army. The 
process was an extremely simple one, tiie materials being already col- 
lected and arranged to their hands. The secretary of the society of twelve 
was easily convertible into a serjeant or corporal; the delegate of five 
societies to a lower baronial was a captain, with sixty men under his com- 
mand ; and the delegate of ten baronials to a county committee became a 

• « The * Domiciliary Visit ' oommenced. It was a risit of darkness and of horror. 
The depraved mind of man never devised a project more atrocious. There every sense 
of moral order or feeling of humanity was abandoned. The door, whether of the 
humble cottage or the lordly mansion, at the dark and dreary hour of night was 
forced by an armed and turbulent band ; and the father, husband, or brother, torn from 
the grasp of his agonising family, was dragged to torture — ^perhaps to death; or, doomed 
to a fate of more lengthened suffering, was hurried on board a prison ship and, without 
trial or impeachment, like a felon, transported to the distant colonies of Britain or 
drafted to the ranks of her Prussian ally, one of her ' illustrious subsidies ' in the Gallic 
crusade." — Teeling's'* Personal Narrative of the Irish Rebellion," Sequel, p. 5. 

t Teeling's " Personal Narrative," p. 86. 

}" Memoir," by O'Connor, Emmet, and Macneven. 
The Catholics were not prohibited by law from enrolling themselves among the 
yeomanry, and the government, in words, allowed of their co-operation; but they were 
received with so much shyness and aversion by their Protestant comrades and officers 
that very few of them actually joined the force. 


colonel, at the head of a battalion of six hundred. The higher appoint- 
ments were reserved under the control of the Executive Directory. As 
soon as a sufficient number of regiments were formed in any county, the 
colonels were instructed to hand in to the Directory the names of three 
persons fit, in their opinion, for the post of adjutant-general for that 
county ; of these three the Directory chose one, through whom all military 
orders were communicated to the officers and men under him. The busi- 
ness of organisation being thus completed, the arming and drilling were 
next attended to. Every man who could afford it was directed to provide 
himself with a musket, bayonet, and as much ammunition as he could 
procure; every other man with a pike, and, if possible, a case of pistols. 
" In many instances," says the Memoir before quoted, " the lower orders 
w-ent about to private houses to search for arms. This the executive con- 
stantly endeavoured to prevent, because they were unwilling to raise alaim 
in their adversaries, or let the members of their body acquire habits of 
plunder and be confounded with robbers. They endeavoiu'ed to dissuade 
them from these acts, by representing to Ihe people that the arms would 
cdmayB he kept in better condition by the gentlemen than hy them, and 
could he easily seized n)henef>er necessary. In other respects, our stores 
were in the arsenal in the Castle and the military depdts throughout the 
country : our supplies were in the treasury." 

The drilling was a more difficult affair : but zeal and resolution sur- 
mounted every obstacle :— 

** In the neighbourhood of the capital and principal towns, where large bodies could 
not have assembled without discorery, they separated into very small parties, each of 
wMch appointed th& most skilful to direct its manoeuvres. The most active search was 
made for pert9ons who had ever been in the military profession, to whom every motive of 
reward, and rank, and expected glory was held out, and generally with success, to allure 
them into the association. Under these they met, night after night, to be instructed in 
the use of arms; sometimes in obscure cellars hired for the purpose, sometimes in houses, 
where every inhabitant was in the secret. It even sometimes happened that, in the 
metropolis, these nocturnal exercises took place in the habitations of the more opulent 
and ardent of the conspirators. In the interior, their evolutions were performed upon a 
more extensive scale. There, every evening that the moon, the signal of rendezvous, was 
to be seen in the heavens, the peasant, without reposing from the toils of the day, stole 
forth with his rude implement of war to pass the night upon the nearest unfrequented 
heath with the thousands of his comrades, who were assembled at that plaice and hour, 
aa for the celebration of some unrighteous mysteries. It was also a frequent custom at 
this time among the lower orders to collect in large bodies, under the pretext of 
indulging in some of the national games of force, but fbr the secret purpose of inspiring 
mutual confidence by the display of their numbers and their athletic forms, and of 
exercising in those mimic contests the alertness and vigour which they were soon to 
employ in the real conflict.*'* 

Within six months, Ulster alone had a rebel army of some hundred 
thousand men, largely supplied with fire-arms and pikes together with 
some artillery, drilled into a respectable condition of military efficiency, 
and bound by oath to obey implicitly the orders of commanding officers 
whose very names were to remain a profound secret until the moment of 
taking the field. 

While the rebel army was getting ready in " obscure cellars " and on 
" unfrequented heaths," events were in progress elsewhere — in the Luxem- 
bourg Palace and in Brest Harbour — ^whose importance entitles them to a 
separate chapter of our history. 

♦ " Life of Curran," vol. i., p. 358. 

110 HinOKT OF THK 



Amoxg the indiTidaals implicated in the business of Jackson and Cockayne 
in the jear 1794 was Theobaxd Woi.fe Toite, who had been guilty of 
the terrible indiscretion of drawing np a paper on the political state of 
Ireland^ and the probabilities of success attending a French inyaaioo, 
copies of which found their way into Jackson's hands. On the arrest of 
the latter. Tone was in a position of serious danger. His habitual caution 
had presenred him from committing himself wiUi the English spy ; but he 
was an object of violent suspicion to the goTemment. Jackson might be 
tempted to save his own life by informing against the dreaded and obnoxious 
secretary to the Cathotics, and a Httle straining of law and evidence would 
do the rest. Under these circumstances. Tone acted with good sense and 
courage. He communicated the whole hcts of his situation to some of 
his aristocratic friends who were high in the confidence of the government,* 
declaring that '' on two points he had made up his mind ;" — ^the first was 
that he would not fly ; the other, tiiat he would never open his lips as a 
witness either against Bowan or Jackson ; that he had no claims on the 
government, who could ruin him if they pleased, — but that, if it so happened 
that his ruin was not an object with them, he was ready to expatriate 
himself and go to America. The efforts of his friends were successfril, 
and an agreement was negotiated on his behalf, by which, without com- 
promising any of his coadjutors in past transactions, or fettering his own 
course for the fixture by pledges at variance witii his principles, he was 
assured that, on his simply undertaking to leave Ireland as soon as he 
could settle his affairs, no proceedings should be taken against him. The 
agreement was kept on both sides. Tone remained unmolested during the 
whole period of Jackson's imprisonment and trial, and in the mouth of 
June, 1795, s^led for America with his family — ^to return in the capacity 
of Adjutant- General in the armies of France. 

It is surprising that the Irish government did not on this occasion so far 
temper their mercy with discretion, as to exact ofthe retreating conspirator, 
before his departure, some pledge or promise respecting his future conduct 
which might have set up the obligation of an honourable engagement as a 
counterpoise to his eager and treasonable patriotism. Their first plan had 
been to send him to the East Indies, out of the reach of Irish and Euro- 
pean politics ; but from some unexplained cause this idea was relinquished, 
and, with a blind and perilous security, they quietly allowed one of their 
most determined and active enemies to go at large through the world 
with all his purposes and resources unimpaired. Of the views with which 
he left Ireland, Tone gives the following account : — 

" A short time before my departure, my friend Russell being in town, he and I walked 
out together to Rathfarnham, to see Emmet, who has a charming villa there. He showed 
us a little study, of an elliptical form, which he was building at the bottom of the lawn, 
and which he said he would consecrate to our meetings if ever we lived to see our 

* Marcus Beresford and George Knox. 


countrj emancipated. I begged of him, if he intended Russell ahoiild be of the party, 
in addition to the books and maps it would naturally contain, to fit up a small cellaret 
which should enclose a few dozens of his best old claret. He showed me that he had 
not omitted that circumstance, which he acknowledged to be essential, and we both 
rallied Russell with considerable success. I mention this trifling aoecdote because I 
love the men, and because it seems now at least possible that we may yet meet again 
in Emmet's study.* As we walked together into town I opened my plan to them both. 
I told them that I considered my compromise with government to extend no farther 
than the banks of the Delaware, and that the moment I landed I was free to follow any 
plan which might suggest itself to me for the emancipation of my country; that un« 
doubtedly I had been guilty of a great offence against the existing government; that, in 
consequence, I was going into exile, which I considered as a full expiation for the offence^ 
and therefore felt myself at liberty , having made that sacrifice, to begin again on a fresh score. 
They both agreed with me in those principles, and I then proceeded to tell them that my 
intention was, immediately on my arrival in Philadelphia, to wait on the French 
minister, to detail to him fully the situation of affairs in Ireland, to endeavour to 
obtain a recommendation to the French government ; and, if I succeeded so far, to leave 
my family in America, set off instantly for Paris, and apply y in the name of my country , for 
the assistance of France^ to enable us to assert our independence. It is unnecessary, "l 
believe, to say that this plan met with the warmest approbation and support from both 
Russell and Emmet. We shook hands, and having repeated our professions of unaltera- 
ble regard and esteem for each other, we parted ; and this was the last interview which 
I was so happy as to have with those two invaluable friends together. I remember it 
was in a little triangular field that this conversation took place ; and Emmet remarked 
to us, that it was in one exactly like it in Switzerland where William Tell and his 
associates planned the downfall of the tyranny of Austria." 

How near the " little triangular field" was to becoming famous in 
British and European history, and by what strange combination of con- 
tingencies it was that the hopes and plans of these patriots were defeated 
when seemingly on the very eve of their fulfilment, we are now to see. 

On the first of August, Tone landed at Wilmington, on the Delaware ; 
and a few days afterwards we find him at Philadelphia, within conve- 
nient visiting distance of the French ambassador. He was not altogether 
in a land of strangers : his government had already commenced the ruinous 
policy of colonising the United States with Irish fugitives — ^victims of 
British oppression and enemies to British rule. He met at Philadelphia 
an old friend and and fellow-patriot. Dr. Reynolds, who had fled from 
Ireland some months earlier than himself in consequence of being si- 
milarly implicated in the afiair of Jackson and Cockayne ; and six weeks 
previously, Archibald Hamilton Rowan had arrived there from France. 
It may be supposed that the three brother refugees had much to tell one 
another since their last meeting, which had been within the walls of Dub- 
lin Newgate, fourteen months before. Rowan and Reynolds cordially ap- 
proved of Tone's plans ; and the next day, with the credentials of Rowan's 
introduction and two Catholic votes of thanks engrossed on vellum, he 
waited on the ambassador of the French republic. Citizen Adet. The 
minister gave the Irish exile a polite reception, but afforded him no de- 
finite encouragement. Tone was desired to put his views and opinions 
about Ireland on paper, in the form of a memorial to the French govern- 
ment ; but Adet dissuaded him from embarking for France as he proposed, 
and would only promise that the memorial should be faithfully transmitted 
and recomrhended to ministerial attention. And there the business for the 
present ended. Tone had done his best, and it did not appear likely that any 
thing would come of it. Disappointed and disheartened, he resigned 

♦ This was written at Paris, in 1796. 

t Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone, vol. i., pp. 180-182. 


himself with such resignation as he was master of to the force of circum - 
stances, made up his mind to settle in America, agreed for the purchase of 
a plantation in New Jersey, took a house at Princeton, and *' hegan to 
thuik his lot was cast to be an American farmer." 

*• In thifl frame of mind," he says, " I continued for some time, waiting for the lawyer 
who was employed to draw the deeds, and expecting next spring to remove to my pur- 
chase and to begin farming at last, when one day I was roused from my lethargy by 
the receipt of letters from Keogh, Russell, and the two Simmses, wherein, after profes- 
sions of the warmest and sincerest regard, they proceeded to acquaint me that the state 
of thepuHic mind in Ireland toas advancing to republicanism faster than even I could believe ^ 
and they pressed me in the strongest manner to fulfil the engagement I had made with 
them at my departure, and to move heaven and earth to force my toay to the French govern- 
ment in order to supplicate assistance, I immediately handed the letters to my wife and 
sister, and desired their opinion, which I foresaw would be that I should immediately, 
if possible, set out for France. My wife especially, whose courage and zeal for my. 
honour and interest were not in the least abated by all her past sufferings, supplicated 
me to let no consideration of her or our children stand for a moment in the way of my 
engagements to our friends and my duty to my country, adding, that she would answer 
for our family during my absence, and that the same Providence which had so often, as 
it were miraculously, preserved us, would, she was confident, not desert us now. My 
sister joined her in those entreaties, and it may well be supposed I required no great sup- 
plication to induce me to make one more attempt in a cause to which I had been so long 

Accordingly our zealous and true-hearted exile set off the next morning 
(end of November, 1795) for Philadelphia, and went inunediately with his 
letters, to Citizen Adet. Adet, it woidd seem, had received letters like- 
wise. His previous hesitancy and lukewarmness disappeared, he entered 
heartily into Tone's projects, and gave him credentiads to Paris. Tone 
settled his affairs in America with the least possible delay; dispatched his 
brother to Ireland^ to carry the news of his intentions to a few of the select 
patriots, and to inform all the world beside that he was quietly settled 
down as a New Jersey farmer ; spent one day with Re3molds, Rowan, and 
Napper Tandy ; and, on the first of January, 1 796, armed with a letter in 
cypher from Citizen Adet to the Comiti de ScUut PtdfliCj set sail from 
Sandy Hook, bound for Havre de Grace. 

Of Tone's proceedings in France, we utterly despair of giving to the 
reader, by extract or abstract, any idea at all equivalent to that presented 
by his own animated narrative— one of the most delightful historic memoirs 
which we possess of that time.f The diflSculties which he had to en- 
counter — a solitary exile, without connections, without patrons, without, a 
friend or acquaintance in all France, and scarcely knowing a word of the 
language — in the execution of a project, which was nothing less than the 
bringing French statesmen and generals to work out his particular theory 

* « Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone,** vol. i., p. Id5. 

f And likewise^ incidentally, an admirable picture — among the best we have— of the- 
actual eyery-day goings-on of things in revolutionised France. Tone arrived in France 
during the first year of the directorial constitution ; when the storm of the reign of terror 
had spent its fury, and, though the waves were still rolling and rocking, the new order 
of things was -acquiring something like a stable and solid consistence. The temper of the 
popular mind under the new regime^ as seen in the theatres, the churches and the 
streets — the characters of public men, and 'the modes of doing; public business — the 
effects of the revolutionary crash on the moral and economical condition of the people, 
are depicted, or suggested, in these memoirs with a vividness that renders them most 
pleasant reading. The Irish refugee paints things, for the most part, en beau — ^but he 
paints from the life : his lightest gossip is good material for the historic student. 


for the dismemberment of the British empire ; the micertainties, dis- 
appointments, and heart-sickening delays that he underwent — ^kept for 
months together running about from the American Ambassador to the 
Foreign Secretary, and from the Secretary to Carnot, and from Camot to 
General Clarke and Under-Secretary Madgett ; the world of ignorance and 
prejudice that he had to work his way through, before he could bring the 
plainest facts of Irish poHtics to bear on the understandings and volitions 
of French statesmen ; * and the issue of the whole in a success better 
than the best of his hopes, and a failure worse than his gloomiest fears : 
these together, make one of the most interesting episodes in the history of 
the time of which we write. As it is, however, only an episode— detached, 
for the most part, from the course of events in Ireland — ^we must pass over 
it slightly and briefly. 

On presenting himself with his credentials to the Foreign Minister, De 
la Croix, as in his more familiar conversations with the Minister's Under- 
Secretary, Madgett, Tone received abundant encom-agement, in general 
terms. He was told that the French government considered the object of 
his mission as of the greatest importance, that their attention was most 
seriously turned towards Ireland, and that there was every reason to 
expect that an eflTort would be made in that quarter — their feehng being 
that, " unless they could separate Ireland from England, the latter wa^s 
invulnerable ;'* and he proceeded diligently, with a good heart of hope, in 
the preparation of memorials on the state of Ireland for the perusal of the 
Directory. But when it came to a question of details, he was mortified to 
find a wide and most material difierence between the views of the French 
government and his own, as to the kind and degree of exertion requisite. 
The following shows the extent of his plan, and the difficulties he had to 
overcome : — 

" February 22. — Finished my memorial, and delivered a fair copy, signed, to Madgett, 
for the Minister of Foreign Relations. Madgett in the horrors. He tells me he has had 
a discourse yesterday for two hours with the Minister, and that the succours he expects 
will fall very short of what he thought. That the marine of France is in such a state 
that government will not hazard a large fleet, and consequently that we must be con- 
tent to steal a march ; that they Mil give 2000 of their best txoops, and arms for 20,000 ; 
that they cannot spare Pichegru nor Jourdan; that they will give any quantity of 
artillery, and, I think he added, what money might be necessary. To all this I answered, 
that cu to 2000 men, they might as well send 20. That with regard to myself, I would go 
if they would send but a corporal's guard ; but that my opinion was, that 5000 teas as little 
as could be landed with any prospect of success, and that that number would leave the 
matter doubtful; that if there could be an imposing force sent in the first instance, it vxmld 
overbear all opposition, the nation would be unanimous, and an immense effusion of blood and 
treasure spared— the law of opinion would at once operate in favour of the government 
which, in that case, would be instantly formed; and I pressed particularly the advantages 
resulting from this last circumstance. He seemed perfectly satisfied with my arguments, 
but equally satisfied that it would not, or rather could not, be done. 1 then bade him 
remember that my plan was built on the supposition of a powerful support in the first 
instance ; that I had particularly specified so in my memorial, and begged him to 
apprise the minister that my decided opinion was so; that nevertheless, with 5000 men, the 
business might be attempted, and I did believe would succeed, but that in that case we must 
fight hard for it; that, though I was satisfied how the militia and army would act in case 
of a powerful invasion, I could not venture to say what might be their conduct under the 

* E, g», he had the utmost difficulty in getting the Minister of War, General Clarke, 
to understand that there was no great probability of Lord Chancellor Fitzgibbon aiding 
an insurrection against the Irish government. 



circninttaiicet he mentioiied ; tliat if they stood by the goTernment, which it was possible 
they might, we should have hot work of it; that tf 5000 nun were gent, they ehould be the 
very flower of the French troops, and a considerable proportion of them artiilerymen, with the 
best general they could spare. He interrupted me to ask who was known in Ireland after 
I^chegm and Jourdan. I answered Hoche, especially since his affair of Quiberon. He 
said he was sure we might have Hoche. I also mentioned, that if they sent but 5000 
men« they should send a greater quantity of arms, as in that case we could not com- 
mand at once all the arms of the nation, as we should if they were able to send 20,000, 
or even 15,000. He promised to represent all this, and that he hoped we should get 
5000 men at least, and a greater quantity of arms. We then parted. Now, what is 
to be my plan? Suppose we get 5000 men, and 30,000 or even 20,000 stand of arms, 
and a train of artillery, I conceive, in the first place, the embarkation must be from 
Holland ; but, in all events, the landiny must be in the north, as near B^fast as possible. 
Had we 20,000, or even 15,000, in the first instance, we should begin with the capital, 
the seizing of which would secure everythiug ; but, as it is, if we cannot go large, we 
must go close-hauled, as the saying is. With 5000 we must proceed entirely on a 
reTolutionary plan I fear (that is to say, reckon only on the Sansculottes), and, if 
necessary, put every man, horse, guinea, and potatoe in Ireland in requisition. 1 should 
also conceive that it would be our policy at first to avoid an action, supposing the Irish 
army stuck to the government. Every day would strengthen and discipline us, and give 
us opportunities to work upon them. With 5000 men, and very strong measures, we should 
ultimately succeed. The only difference between that number and 20,000 is, that with the 
latter there would be no fighting, and with this we may hoM some hard knocks. Oh, good Grod ! 
good Grod ! what would I give to-night that wewere safely landed, and encamped on 
the Cave Hill. If we can find our way so far, I think we shall puzzle John bull to 
work us out. Surely we can do as much as the Chouans or people of La Vendee." * 

Discouraged and anxious^ Tone went back to his first friend the Ameri- 
can Aml>a8sador, and opened his heart to him without reserve. Monroe 
gave him good adyice*— viz., to drop the '* subaltern way of doing busi- 
ness," and deal only with ptincipals-^to have done with De la Croix and 
Madgetty and go at once straight to the Direcknre Executif. It was a bold 
step to take, but a wise one, with a man like Camot in the Directory. On the 
next day (February 24th) we find Tone going, " at twelve o'clock, in a 
fright to the Luxembourg, conning speeches in execrable French all the 
way :" — 

''What shall I say to Camot? Well, 'whatsoever the Lord putteth in my mouth* 
that surely shall I utte]^.* Plucked up a spirit as I drew near the Palace, and mounted 
the stairs like a lion; went into the first bureau that I found open, and demanded at 
once to see Camot. The clerks stared a little, hut I repeated my demand with a 
courage truly heroic, on which they instantly submitted, and sent a person to conduct 
me. This happened to be his day for giving audience, which each member of the 
Executive Directory does in his turn. Introduced by my guide into the ante-ehamber, 
which was filled with people, the officers of state all in their new eostume. Wrote a 
line in English, and delivered it to one of the Huissiers, stating that a stranger just 
airived from America wished to speak to Citizen Camot on an affiur of consequence. 
He brought me an answer in two minutes, that I should have an audience. The 
folding' doors were now thrown open, a bell being previously rung to give notice to the 
people that all who had business might present themselves, and Citizen Camot appeared, 
in the petit-costume of white satin with crimson robe, richly embroidered. It is very 
elegant, and resembles almost exactly the draperies of Vandyke. He went round the 
room receiving papers, and answering those vi^ho addressed him. I told my friend the 
Huissier, in marvellous French, that my business was too important to be transacted there, 
and that I would return on another day, when it would not be Camot's turn to gire 
audience, and when I should hope to find him at leisure. He mentioned this to Carnot, 
who ordered me instantly to be shown into an inner appartment, and said he would see 
me as soon as the aucUence was over. That I thought looked well, and I began 
accordingly to con my speech again. In the apartment were five or six personages, who 

* Ibid., pp. 229-233. 


being, like myself, of great distinction, were admitted to a private audience. I allowed 
ihem all precedence, as I wanted to have my will of Camot ; and while they were in 
their turns speaking with him, I could not help refleeting how often I had wished for the 
opportunity I then enjoyed, what schemes I had laid, what hazards I had run. When 
I looked round and saw myself actually in the cabinet of the Executive Directory, vis-d^ 
vis Citizen Carnot, the * organiser of victory,* I could hardly believe my own senses, and 
felt as if it were all a dream. However, I was not in the least degree disconcerted, 
and when I presented myself, after the rest were dismissed, I had all my faculties, such 
as they were, as well at my command as on any occasion in my life. I began the dis- 
course by saying, in horrible French, that I had been informed he spoke English. 'A 
little, sir ; but I perceive you speak French, and, if you please, we will converse in that 
language.' I answered, still in my jargon, that if he could have the patience to endure 
me I would endeavour, and only prayed him to stop me whenever I did not make myself 
understood. I then told him I was an Irishman ; that I had been secretary and agent 
to the Catholics of that country, who were about 3,000,000 of people ; that I was also in 
perfect possession of the sentiments of the Dissenters, who were at least 900,000 ; and 
that I wished to communicate with him on the actual state of Ireland. He stopped me 
here to express a doubt as to the numbers being so great as I represented. I answered, 
a calculation had been made within these few years, grounded on the number of 
houses, which was ascertained for purposes of revenue ; that, by that calculation, the 
people of Ireland amounted to 4,1 00,000, and which was acknowledged to be considerably 
under the truth. He seemed a little surprised at this, and I proceeded to state that all 
those people were unanimous in their sentiments in favour of France, and eager to 
throw off the yoke of England. He asked me then < What they wanted ? ' I said, 
* An armed force in the commencement, for a point (Tappui, until they can organise 
themselves ; and undoubtedly a supply of arms, and some money.' I added, that I had 
already delivered in a memorial on the subject to the Minister of Foreign Relations, and 
that I was preparing another, which would explain to him in detail all that I knew, 
better than could be done in conversation. He then said, * We shall see those memo- 
rials.' The * organiser of victory ' proceeded to ask me, * Are there not some strong 
places in Ireland?* I answered, ' I knew of none, except some works to defend the 
harbour of Cork.' He stopped me here, exclaiming, *Aye, Cork! But may it not le 
necessary to land there f* — by which question I perceived he had been organising a 
little already in his own mind. I answered, I thought not. That if a landing in force 
were attempted, it would be better near the capital, for obvious reasons ; if with a small army, 
it should be in the north rather than the south of Ireland, for reasons which he would find 
in my memorials. He then asked me, * Might there not be some danger or delay in a 
longer navigation?' I answered, it would not make a difference of two days, which 
was nothing in comparison of the advantages. I then told him that I came to France 
by the direction and concurrence of the men who (and here I was at a loss for a 
French word, with which, seeing my embarrassment, he supplied me) guided the two 
great parties I had mentioned. This satisfied me clearly that he attended to and 
understood me. I added, that I had presented myself in August last, in Philadelphia, to 
Citizen Adet, and delivered to faim such credentials as I had with me ; that he did not at 
that juncture think it advisable for me to come in person, but offered to transmit a 
memorial, which I accordingly delivered to him. That about the end of November 
last I received letters from my friends in Ireland, repeating their instructions in the 
Strongest manner that I should, if possible, force my way to France, and lay the 
situation of Ireland before its government. That, in consequence, I had again waited 
on Citizen Adet, who seeAied eager to assist me, and offered me a letter to the Directoire 
Executif, which I accepted with gratitude. That I sailed from America in the very first 
vessel, and had arrived about a fortnight ; that I had delivered my letter to the Minister 
for Foreign Affairs, who had ordered me to explain myself without reserve to Citizen 
Madgett, which I had accordingly done. That by his advice I had prepared and de- 
livered one memorial on the actual state of Ireland, and was then at work on another, 
which would comprise the whole of the subject. That I had the highest respect for the 
Minister ; and that as to Madgett, I had no reason whatsoever to doubt him ; but, never- 
theless, must be permitted to say, that in my mind it was a business of too great 
importance to be transacted with a mere Commis. That I should not think I had dis- 
charged my duty, either to France or Ireland, if I left any measure unattempted which 
might draw the attention of the Directory to the situation of the latter country ; and 
that, in consequence, I had presumed to present myself to him, and to implore his 
attention to the facts contained in my two memorials. That I should also presume to 


request that, if any doubt or difficulty arose in his mind on any of those hetB, he would 
have the goodness to permit me to explain. I concluded by saying, that I looked upon 
it as a favourable omen that I had been allowed to communicate with him, as he was 
perfectly well known by reputation in Ireland, and was the very man of whom my friends 
had Bpoken. He shook his head and smiled, as if he doubted me a little. I assured 
him the fact was so ; and, as a proof, told him that in Ireland we all knew three years 
ago that he could speak English, at which he did not seem displeased. I then rose, 
and after the usual apologies took my leave. 

" Here is a full and true account of my first audience with the Executive Directory of 
France, in the person of Citizen Carnot, the ' organiser of victory.' I think I came off 
very clear. What am I to infer from all this 7 As yet I have met with no difficulty nor 
check, nothing to discourage me ; but I wish with such extravagant passion for the 
emancipation of my country, and I do $o abhor and detest the very name of England, that 
I doubt my own judgment, lest I see things in too favourable a light. I hope 1 aoi 
doing my duty. It is a bold measure ; after all, if it should succeed, and my visions be 
realised — Huzza ! Vive la Republtque ! "* 

This was a grand point gained. And two days afterwards De la Croix 
raised his hopes higher still, by assuring him that '* there was no object 
nearer the heart of the Executive Directory than the separation of Ireland 
from England, and her estabhshment as an independent republic in alliance 
with France ; that they had that business at that very moment before 
them, and would leave no means consistent with their utmost capacity un- 
tried to accomplish it." But, however near the object might be to the 
heart of the Executive Directory, it was far indeed from an actual accom- 
plishment. Poor Tone had to go through many a weary month of anxiety 
and harassment before he could see or credibly hear of a thing being done 
towards bringing the affair to a practical bearing, Disheartened by the 
apparent inertness of the government, and the impossibihty of getting any 
definite answer to his memorials ; ignorant even whether those memorials 
had been so much as read ; teased by the ridiculous crotchets of General 
Clarke (who unfortunately had once been in Ireland, and presumed that 
he knew the country and its politics as well as Tone himself), and by the 
eternal " good news" of the " terribly sanguine" and conceited Madgett, to 
whom the higher powers had handed him over ; worried out of all patience 
by having again and again to go over the same ground of fact and argu- 
ment, without making the slightest impression ; perplexed by contradictory 
reports ; depressed by a life of enforced soUtude and inaction, and every now 
and then chagrined beyond measure to find that the secret of his mission was 
oozing out through most untrustworthy channels ; the very ground- work of 
all his hopes shaken by news from Ireland of the successive arrests of the 
men on whose exertions he had most relied — ^no wonder that he exclaims, . 
'' Unhappy is the man or the nation whose destiny depends on the 
mil of another. ^^ His only comfort was hearing fi-om time to time how 
" Buonaparte, a Corsican,'* was beating the Austrians out of Italy. On 
the 2nd of May, " literally tired of his life," he went to Carnot again ; was 
admitted, but was obliged to content himself with the very humble satis- 
faction of finding that the Director '' recollected him perfectly." Informa- 
tion he could get none, except that the government meant to send a 
person to Ireland to observe and report, and that if the expedition were 
undertaken, he should be allowed to bear a part in it. He parted from 
Carnot with the belief '^ that as yet there is no one step taken in the busi- 
ness, and that, in fact, the expedition will not be undertaken." 

* Ibid., p. 338 et seq. 


Tone was as much mistaken in this belief as in his previous sanguine 
anticipations. At that very time some most important steps were taking 
in the business, and it was soon put past all doubt that the expedition would 
be undertaken. On the 23rd of June he called on Genersd Clarke, who 
told him that *' he was at liberty to acquaint him so far as that the btisi- 
ness, and even tJie time, were determined on by the Directory , and the 
fnanner only remained under diactission'' Ajid a few days ailerwards 
be learned with delight and surprise that the government- had a com^ 
fnunication open with Ireland ; that they had recently received a letter 
stating that '' fourteen of the counties, including the entire North, were 
completely organised for the purpose of throwing off the English yoke, and 
that in the remsuning eighteen the organisation was advancing lapidly" — 
in fine, that the expedition would certainly and soon be undertaken, and 
that General Hoche would have the conduct of it. 

The history of this " communication open with Ireland" is explained in 
the previously-quoted *' Memoir of the Origin and Progress of the Irish 
Union," by O'Connor, Emmet, and Macneven. The passage has value, as 
being the final manifesto of the United Irishmen against their govern- 
ment : — 

" About the middle of 1796" (it was ia May), ** a meeting of the Executive took 
place, more important in its discussions and its consequences than any that had pre- 
ceded it. As such, we have thought ourselves bound to give an account of it with the 
most perfect frankness, and more than ordinary precision. This meeting took place in 
consequence of a letter from one of the society* who had emigrated on account of poli- 
tical opinions. It mentioned that the state of the country had been represented to the 
government of France in so favourable a point of view as to induce them to resolve upon 
invading Ireland, for the purpose of enabling it to separate itself from Great Britain. 
On this solemn and important occasion, a serious review was taken of the state of the 
Irish nation at that period. It was observed that a desperate ferment existed in the 
public mind. A resolution in favour of a parliamentary reform had, indeed, been passed 
early in 1793 by the House of Commons, but it had been frustrated by several suc- 
cessive adjournments ; all hope of its attainment was vanished, and its friends every 
where proscribed ; the Volunteers were put down; all power of meeting by delegation 
for any political purpose (the mode in which it was most usual and expedient to co* 
operate on any subject of importance) was taken away at the same time. The provo- 
cations of the year 1794, Che recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, and the re-assumption of coercive ^ 
measures that followed it, were strongly dwelt on. The county of Armagh had been 
long desolated by two contending factions, agreeing only in one thing — an opinion 
that most of the active magistrates in that county treated one party with the most fos- « 
tering kindness, and the other with the most rigorous persecution. It was stated that 
so marked a partiality exasperated the sufferers and those who sympatnised in their mis- 
fortunes. It was urged with indignation that, notwithstanding the greatness of the 
military establishment in Ireland, and its having been able to suppress die Defenders in 
various counties, it was not able or was not employed to suppress those outrages in 
that county which drove seven thousand persons from their native dwellings. The ma- 
gistrates, who took no steps against the Orangemen, were said to have overleaped the 
boundaries of law to pursue and pumsh the Defenders. The government seemed to 
take on themselves those injuries by the Indemnity Act — ^and even honoured the 
violators — ^and by the Insurrection Act, which enabled the same magistrates, if they 
chose, under colour of law, to act anew the same abominations. Nothing, it was con- 
tended, could more justly excite the spirit of resistance and determine men to appeal to 
arms, than the Insurrection Act. It punished with death the administering of oaths 
which, in their opinion, were calculated for the most virtuous and honourable purposes. 
The power of proclaiming counties, and quieting them by breaking open the cabins of 
the peasants between sunset and sunrise, by seizing the inmates, and sending them on 
board tenders, without the ordinary interposition of a trial by jury, had, it was alleged, 

* Tone. 


irritated beyond endurance the minds of the reflecting and the feeUogi of ttie unthink- 
ing inhabitants of that province. It was contended that, even according to the con- 
stitution and example of 1688, when the protection of the constituted authorities was with' 
drawn from the snhjectf allegiance^ the reciprocal duty, ceased to hind; when the wrongs of 
the people were not redressed, they had a right to resist, and were free to seek for allies 
wherever they were to be found. Th» English revolutiotasts of 1688 called in the aid of a 
foreign republic to overthrow their oppressors. There had sprung up in our own time a much 
more mighty republic, which, by its offers of assistance to break the chains of slavery, had 
drawn on itself a war with the enemies of our freedom, and now particularly tendered us its 
aid. These arguments prevailed; and it was resolved to employ the proffered assistance for 
the purpose of separation. We were aware it was suspected that negociations between 
the United Irishmen and the French were carried on at an earlier period than that now 
alluded to : but we solemnly declare such suspicion was ill-fpunded. In consequence 
of this determination of the Executive, an agent was dispatched to the French Directory^ 
who acquainted them with it, stated the dispositions of the people, and the measures 
which caused them. He received fresh assurances that the succours should he sent as 
soon as the armament could be got ready,** 

The "a^ent" was Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who, accompanied by 
Arthur O^Cqnnor, proceeded to Switzerland in the month of June, and had 
an interview near the French frontier with General Hoche. The result 
of that interview was that the French Directory were fully satisfied of the 
trustworthiness of Tone and his views of Irish affairs, and it was deter- 
mined, once for all, that the thing should be done with all possible speed, and 
on a large scale. On the 1 2th of July, Tone was introduced to Hoche at 
the Luxembourg, and had the infinite satisfaction of finding that his views 
were fully adopted by the government, especially with regard to the 
important point of the amount of force required for the object. The general 
" TVOtdd come in full force, and bring great quantities of arms, ammuni- 
tion, stores, and artillery, and, for his own reputation, see that all the ar- 
rangements were made on a proper scale."* 

Still, it was a long way from Luxembourg Palace to the British Channel. 
Five weary months intervened before the armament could be got ready for 
sailing. The marine department could not, or would not, work at all well with 
the military ; every possible device of obstruction and procrastination was 
employed, in an underhand way, to retard the expedition ; and an admiral 
(Villaret Joyeuse) had to be cashiered before any business could be got on 
with.f But Hoche and the Directory were thoroughly in earnest, and 
at last all was ready. On the 16th of December, 1796, the expedition 
sailed from Brest Harbour. It consisted of 17 ships of the line, 13 frigates, 
7 corvettes, and 6 transports — in all 43 sail — ^with 15,000 soldiers (mostly 
the veterans of La Vendue), 41,000 stand of arms, 29 pieces of artillery, 
61 ,000 barrels of powder, and 7,000,000 ball cartridges. A worthy reward 
it was of ten months' toil and harassment. 

The sailing of this splendid armament — the safe landing of which, 
anywhere in the north of Ireland, would undoubtedly, at that time, have 
9evpred Ireland from Great Britain — was the last of Tone's successes 

* Tone's " Memoirs," vol. ii., p. 17. 

t One of the Admirals, Bruix, when remonstrate^ with by Hoche for the intermina- 
ble and inexplicable delays of the naval preparations, gave for a reason that some of the 
charts must be washed in water colours, which would take two days. Tone says, " the 
general thinks the marine are trifling with him, on purpose to gain time qntil the bad 
weather sets in." — The gold of Pitt has been charged with these tricky procrastinations 
of the Brest marine. Perhaps a simpler solution of the mystery would be the true one — 
there was a British fleet in the Channel. 


From the afternoon of the 16th of December, all was one tissue and com- 
plication of disasters. That same night, in passing through the Kaz, a 
dangerous and difficult strait at the mouth of Brest harbour (avoided in 
ordinary navigation even by single ships), a seventy-four struck on the 
rocks and was lost ; and the next morning they found themselves only 
eighteen sail in company, instead of forty-three. What was worst of all, 
among the missing twenty-five was the Fraternity, with Hoche and the 
Admiral on board. Sixteen of their lost companions rejoined them on the 
19th, but no Fraternity was to be seen or heard of. After another sepa- 
ration and another re-junction (French ships of war sail better now), they 
arrived on the morning of the 21st off Cape Clear, and in a few hours more 
reached the mouth of Bantry Bay, the appointed rendezvous of the arma- 
ment in case of separation — thirty-five sail in company, with fine weather 
and a fair wind, and nothing to desire except the presence of General 
Hoche, or a man of spirit and decision in his place. Well for Great 
Britain that the genersil next in command happened to be no other than 
that same GroticJiy whose want of spirit and decision did her so good 
service at Waterloo. " All rests now," says Tone, " upon Grouchy ; I 
hope he may turn out well. He has a glorious game in his hands, if he has 
spirits and talent to play it ; if he succeeds, it will immortalise him." But 
Grouchy did not turn out well, and is immortalised otherwise than by 
success. As at Waterloo he made the mistake of keeping his commander 
too long waiting for him, in Bantry Bay he made the mistake of waiting 
too long for his commander. His instructions were, in the event of a 
separation of the fleet, to cruise about for five days ; and he set himself 
accordingly to obey his instructions with a most stoical defiance of conse- 
quences. " There cannot be imagined," exclaims poor Tone, " a situation 
more provokingly tantalizing than mine at this moment : within view, 
almost within reach, of my native land, and uncertain whether I shall ever 
set my foot on it. We are now (nine o'clock, December 21st) at the 
rendezvous appointed ; stood in for the coast till twelve, when we were 
near enough to toss a biscuit ashore ; at twelve tacked and stood out 
again ; so now we have begun our cruise of five days in all its/orms^ 
and shallj in obedience to the letter of our instructions, ruin the eospe- 
dition, and destroy the remnant of the French navy^ with a precision 
and punctuality which will be truly edifying. We opened Bantry Bay, 
and in all my life rage never entered so deeply into my heart as when 
we tinned our backs on the coast." 

After three days of this folly, with two more separations, Groudby 
yielded (December 24th) to the urgent expostulations and entreaties of 
his Etat Major ^ and gave orders for the immediate disembarkation of 
the remnant of the forces — ^reduced now to 6,500 men, without a guinea, 
without a tent, without a horse, with nothing but the arms in their hands, 
the clothes on their backs, and a good courage. '^ We purpose to make a 
race for Cork, as if the devil were in our bodies ; and when we are fairly 
there, we will stop for a day or two to take breath and look about us." 
But it was too late. One hour and a half of fair wind would have efifected 
their object ; but the fair wind had blown itself all away three days be- 
fore. That day, and the next, and the next after that, it blew a gale 
from the east. On the 27th, a last desperate project for working round 
to the Shannon, in hope of rejoining some of their scattered companions. 

120 H18T0BT OF THE ' 

was frustrated by a hurricane, which separated them again (for the sixth 
time) ; and on the morning of the 29th the commodore made the signal 
to steer for France. They reached Brest in safety, on New Year's -day, 
1797, seven sail in all — ^not having seen, nor been seen by, their general 
and admiral once during the whole voyage. 

Thus ended, by a series of disasters and blunders on which Great Bri- 
tain had no right whatever to count, an enterprise more formidable to her 
power than any that had been attempted by the boldest of her enemies 
since the Spanish Armada. We have no taste, in general, for hypothe- 
tical predictions of what would have happened if such and such other 
things had happened ; but it is a safe conjecture — almost beyond a con- 
• jecture — that, had Hoche and his fifteen tiiousand veterans been able at 
that time to get themselves landed in any part of Ireland except the 
south^ the result could have been no other than an Hibernian republic. 
The government was utterly unprepared for their reception, treated the 
first rumours of a French descent with scornful derision, as the *' frenzy of 
common fame," and was thrown into absolute dismay by the announce- 
ment of the fact.f Not a ship nor a regiment was ready to receive the 
invaders4 For five days in that month of December, 1796, a French fleet 

* Munster was at this period the only province of Ireland not deeply leavened with 
Defenderism or United Irishism. The peasantry were loyal and anti-Gallican to a man; 
and had the landing in Bantry Bay been effected, the expectation of native co- 
operation would have been utterly disappointed, and the object of the invasion most 
probably frustrated. These poor creatures behaved themselves all through that week 
of public and ministerial panic, in a way that ought, from that time thenceforth and for 
evermore (were there gratitude in governments), to have opened a new era in Irish le- 
gislation and politics. The Lord-Lieutenant writes to the Duke of Portland on the 
10th of January, 1797 : — *' During the march of our troops, the utmost attention was 
paid them by the inhabitants of the towns and villages through which they passed ; 
to that in many places the meat provided hy the commissariat teas not consumed. The roads, 
which in parts had been rendered impassable by the snow, were cleared by the pea- 
santry. The poor people often shared their potatoes with them, and dressed their meat without 
demanding payment.** Such was Catholic peasant loyalty after a century of Protest- 
ant and landlord oppression. Its reward was — an honourable mention in the Dublin 
Gazette that year, and martial law the next. 

It must be remembered that the landing in Bantry Bay vras no part of the first de- 
sign of the expedition, but only an after-thought, arising out of the failure of the origi- 
nal pleui. Dr. Madden says, on the authority of Arthur O'Connoi (United Irishmen, 
Second Series, vol. ii., p. 206), ** The place of the intended debarkment of Hoche's 
expedition has never transpired; the knowledge of it was confined to Hoche and 

t See a curious anecdote in Ulustration of the ministerial panic, in Teeling's " Per- 
sonal Narrative," p. 69. 

X It was thought strange that, vdtb the British government's means of obtaining in- 
formation and unscrupulousness in the use of them, it remained ignorant of the destina- 
tion of the formidable armament which had been for months preparing in Brest har- 
bour — so ignorant, that the French fleet did not see an English ship of war either in 
going or returning. The fact is, the sagacity of the British cabinet over-reached itoelf. 
On its being made known to Hoche that **& gentleman with a foreign accent" had 
bean calUng on the government printer at Brest, with the offer of a large bribe for a 
copy of the proclamation which it was foreseen that the general would publish whereso- 
ever he might be bound, Hoche drew up an amended proclamation, with ** Portugal" 
and " Portuguese** substituted for " Ireland "and " Irish," had a few copies struck off, 
and allowed the gentleman with the foreign accent to obtain possession of one, taking 
care to have the real proclamation printed elsewhere. The result of the ruse was that 
Sir John Colpoys, the English admiral, just at the critical moment drew off his fleet 
fiom the Brest station, where he had been for Beyeral weeks watching the movements of 


was suffered to He in an Irish haven without the smallest molestation. The 
Briti^ empire escaped dismemherment — ^because the wind blew hard, and 
the ship Fraternity was not a good sailer. 

If any British statesmen or politicians, in these days of steam navigation, 
dream of permanently holding Ireland in connection with Great Britain by 
other ties than those of just and good government, we pray them to read, 
mark, learn, and inwardly digest the '' Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone." 









The failure of Hoche*s expedition opened one last chance for the con- 
ciliation of Ireland. The circumstances of that attempt at invasion were 
every way fitted to act both on the prudence and the generosity of any 
government possessing a particle of either quality. Abortive as the at- 
tempt proved, its failure was fortuitous — the work mainly of the elements; 
and accident could scarcely be relied on to defend the British empire 
twice. At all events, French invasion was now demonstrated to be not 
impossible. The boasted guardianship of the wooden walls had turned 
out not to be infallible ; the British Isles were not absolutely inaccessible 
to hostile fleets. For one entire fortnight the coasts of Ireland had lain at 
the mercy of an invading enemy ; and what had been once might be 
again. The noble behaviour of the Munster peasanty, toe, during the 
five days that the French were hourly expected to land, invited conces- 
sion and conciliation. It showed that the assumption on which the whole 
fabric of coercive and penal legislation rested was a fallacy ; the millions 
were loyal at heart, after all. With a people in such a temper, conces- 
sion would have conciliated ; it would have come with a good grace — ^not 

the French marine, and left the coast of Ireland at the mercy of the enemy during. a 
whole fortnight. 

The evidence given by the United Irish leaders before the Secret Committee of 1798 
shows that the counsels of the Union, like those of the government, were deianged by 
false aod contradictory intelligence. When Emmet was asked by the committee, "How 
do you account for the people being so loyal and well-disposed while the French were in 
Bantry Bay?" he replied, "About November, 17 96, a messenger arrived here from France, 
who stated that a descent would immediately be made with 15,000 men. In a very few 
days after this messenger had quitted Ireland on his return, a letter arrived which was 
considered as authentic by the Irish Executive, stating that the expedition was deferred 
till spring, lliis contradiction threw the Executive off their guard, in consequence of 
which no measures were taken to prepare the people for the reception of the French 


as a reluctant surrender of weakness and fear to p<^ular turbulence, but 
as the free-will acknowledgment of popular loyalty. For the Popish 
peasants, that shared their potatoes with the king's troops, and harnessed 
themselves in droves to drag the king's guns through mountain passes 
(snow-drifts notwithstanding), something surely might be done by the 
king's government, without any compromise either of dignity or of Pro- 

The event of the Bantry Bay expedition had its lessons for the United 
Irishmen likewise, and was well suited to dispose the most eager and 
sanguine of them to moderation and compromise. The northern middle- 
class republicans now discovered, much to their surprise, that they were 
not so strong as they had imagined ; that the national unanimity on which 
they had fondly calculated did not exist ; that the millions would, when 
it came to a practical question, be not with them (as they had too easily 
taken for granted), but against them ; that the instinct of loyalty was still 
rooted in the heart of the peasant population, all penal codes, potato- 
tithe, Whiteboy and Insurrection Acts notwithstanding. Nor were they 
altogether clear what would have been the result of the success of an in- 
vasion of foreign sympathisers. Separation from Great Britain, certainly : 
an Hibernian republic, probably; — ^but national independence, possibly 
not. The expedition was on a scale far beyond the expectations of the 
most sanguine among them, and the wishes of the more considerate. 
Their demand was, not fewer than five thousand men, nor more tlian 
ten thousand. With fifteen thousand of the best soldiers of France, and 
a general like Hoche, they might have found themselves too strong. 
The republic was not always scrupulously tender of the liberties of the 
nations whom she liberated. Those who came as deliverers, might have 
staid as conquerors ; and at any rate, demands would have been made on 
Irish gratitude inconsistent with Irish pride and independence. Consi- 
derations of this kind disposed many of the patriot leaders at this period to 
recede from the extreme of their previous political aspirations, and try 
once more for that legal and constitutional reform which, however defec- 
tive in theory, would have been practically a large and substantial instal- 
ment of justice to Ireland. On the 2nd of January, 1797, a public 
meeting was held at Belfast, in which O'Connor, Sampson, and others of 
the northern leaders took part, when it was resolved, — 

'< That the imperfect state of the representation in the House of Commons is the pri- 
mary cause of the discontent at present existing in the country : 

** That the public mind would be restored to tranquillity, and every impending danger 
effectually averted, by such a reform in parliament as would secure to population and 
property their due weight in the scale of government, without distinction on account of 
religious opinion : 

'* That a determination, firmly manifested on the part of government, to comply with 
the just desires of the people, would have the happiest effect in conciliating the affections 
of the people, whose object is reform alone ; and thereby constitute the only rampart of 
defence that can bid complete defiance to the efforts of foreign and domestic enemies : 

*' That we can conceive a government by King, Lords, and Commons (the Commons 
being thus reformed), when wisely and honestly administered, capable of affording every 
happiness a nation can enjoy." 

A similar meeting was held in Dublin bv Emmet and his friendsj and 
amicable communications were opened with some of the members of the 
Whig Opposition in parliament. 


There can scarcely be a doubt but that at this time the pacification of 
Ireland might have been effected, had the government honestly desired it. 
The United Irish leaders were in a mood for compromise and equitable 
adjustment. In their overtures to the Whigs they had abstained from 
pressing the obnoxious points of annual parliaments and universal suffrage, 
and any considerable and substantial concession would have tranquillised, 
if not contented, a large proportion of the agitators. O'Connor, Emmet, 
and Macneven s^y, in their '^ Memoir on the Origin and Progress of the 

*' If in the courae of that effort for reform it had not become evideat that Buccees waa 
hopeless, it was the wish of many among the United Irushmen, and the EKecutive would 
have gladly embraced the occasion of declining to hold any further intercourse with 
France, except sending a messenger then to tell them that the difference between the 
goyernment and the people had been adjusted, and that they would have no business a 
6ecoi»d time to attempt a landing." 

For a while, it seemed as if an adjustment were likely to be effected. Re- 
ports were circulated and believed that the British cabinet had determined 
on conciliatory measures. Catholic emancipation and " temperate reform" 
^vere again talked of. The resignation of Lord Camden was rumoured ; 
and, what was best of all, it became known that the popular and liberal 
Prince of Wales had besought his royal father to send him to Ireland as 
liord Lieutenant, with Earl Moira as Commander-in-Chief, and had ex- 
pressed a most decided opinion to Mr. Pitt in favour of a system of con- 
ciliation. But the pleasing prospect — like all other pleasing prospects 
which our history has opened — was destined to be of but brief continuance. 
Conciliation was not desired by the cabinet of either country. The go- 
vernment of Ireland was in the hands of a faction that nnshed the people 
mould rebels that minister 8 might see the rebellion and crush it ;"* and 
the offer of the heir apparent to the crown, to tranquillise by justice and 
mercy a third part of the empire, was rejected. " First subdue^ and 
then reform^'' was the ministerial answer to the Whig minority in parlia- 
ment when, in the course of the ensuing session, the question of reform 
was re-opened. It was the last time of asking. A majority of four to one 
responded Ate to this programme of coercive and cruel policy : and 
Grattan an4 the T^higs, disgusted and despairing, seceded from the Housq 
of Commons. 

The prospect of returning tranquillity with which the year comm^ced 
was too slight and transient to have any practical effect on the general 
state of the country. It did not produce even a suspension or mitigation of 
the disorders which then rent the entire north of Ireland. The govern* 
ment went on pouring troops into the country from England and Scotland, 
arming and disciplining the Orange yeomanry, arresting the people on sus- 
picion, imprisoning without bail, and transporting without trial, and 
sanctioning by connivance every description of magisterial oppression and 
military insolence.f The misdoings were not all on one side. Terror 
was met by terror, and outrage answered to outrage. The United Irish- 

* Speech of Mr. John Claudius Beresford, March 20, 1797. 

f Early in the year, a party of musqueteers attacked the office of the Northern Star 
(Samuel Neilson's paper), at 3elfast. They broke into the house, destroyed the presses, 
threw the types into the street, and lodged the printers in gaol. Redrew or compensa- 
tion was, of course, not a thing to be thought of. 


men continued their military exercisings and drillings, till, in April, they 
had (on paper at least) an organised force of a hundred thousand men. 
They, too, intimidated, plundered, and murdered, after the example of their 
rulers, and for a while with equal or superior efficiency. The Report of 
the Secret Committee of 1798 says, with reference to this period — 

" To deter the well-affected from joining the yeomanry corps, and to render the ad- 
ministration of justice altogether ineffectual, the most active system of terror teas put in 
operation. Persons enrolled in the yeomanry, magistrates, witnesses, jurors — ^in a word, 
every class and description of people who ventured to support the laws — became objects 
of the most cruel persecution in their persons, property, and even in the line of their 
business ; and multitudes were compelled to take illegal oaths, and profess an adherence 
to the party, as a means of security. 

"In tbelatter end of 1796 and beginning of 1797, the loyalinhabitants of Ulster 
suffered most severely from the depredations of the United Irishmen. Tliroughoue the 
province they were stripped of their arms. The most horrid marders were perpetrated 
by la^e bodies of men in open day; and it became nearly impossible to bring the 
offenders to justice, from the inevitable destruction that awaited the witnesses or jurors 
who dared to perform their duty." 

The ahove statement is founded on fact, though the facts have lost 
nothing in the hands of the Secret Committee. The truth is, the "loyal 
inhabitants of Ulster " were now in the minority. The Report omits to 
state that the loyal inhabitants had hegun the " active system of tenor," 
of which these United Irish outrages were hut the natural reaction ; and 
is altogether silent on the subject of the " depredations and horrid mur- 
ders " of the Orange exterminators, offenders whom it had been found 
quite impossible to bring to justice. 

The active system of terror met, for a time, with considerable success. 
During the spring assizes of this year the crown prosecutions very generally 
failed. Witnesses would not swear up to hanging point, juries would not 
convict, and the confidence and zeal of the Unionists were greater than 
ever. Intimidation seems to have been reinforced by bribery. The Report 
already quoted states that — 

** Entries of money appear in their proceedings, as paid to procure, as well as to buy 
off, witnesses ; in many cases to gaolers, for being guilty of breaches of trust ; and even 
to under-sheriffs, for returning partial panels. Handbills to intimidate jurors were cir- 
culated, and every species of indecent management was practised in the courts to 
exclude from the jury-box persons unconnected with their party."* 

* As reports of secret committes are not always trustworthy historical documents, it 
may be well to add that the papers of the United Irishmen actually do contain some 
suspicious entries, corroborative^ so far as they go, of the above charge. In one me- 
morandum of their proceedings (dated *' County of Down Committee, June 8th, 1797 "), 
we find the following items of " costs of the law :" — 

" Gaoler 10 guineas. 

I'wo Assistants £20 each. 

Sub-Sheriff 20 guineas. 

Witnesses £200." 

And in another (April 14th, 1797), an entry of £498. 4s. 0|d. '* to counsel and wit- 
nesses " is prefaced with the significant notice — " We have had a great deal of trouble 
at the last assizes; the expense was immense; they have ended with honour to the 
people. — See Appendix xiv. to the Report of 1798. 

The information given in this Appendix is stated to have been furnished by " Nicholas 
Maguan, of Saintfield, in the county of Down, who was himself a member of the provincial 
and county committees^ and also a colonel in the military system of the United Irishmen. He 
was present at each of the meetings of which an account is here given, and from time to 
time, immediately qfter each meeting, communicated what passed thereat to the Eev, John 


Altogether, the spring of 1 797 appears to have heen the period — as 
regards Ulster, the most important of the four provinces — ^when the United 
Irish system had attained its highest point of vigour. The organisation, 
civil and military, was extensive and efficient ; the zeal and confidence of 
the people were imhounded : their leaders had the utmost difficulty in 
persuading them to wait for the arrival of t^ French, before hazarding a 
general insurrection ; and the temper of a large proportion of the native 
militia regiments was such, that their co-operation, in the event of a rising, 
was confidently reckoned on by the patriots.* The government was 
frightened, and felt the necessity of stronger measures. That fatal and 
vricked policy which, interrupted only by the brief administration of Earl 
FitzwilUam, had now been recklessly pursued for foiu* years, was at length 
producing its natural results; it had brought the whole machinery of 
society and government into difficulties for which the only visible solution 
was martial law. All the ordinary and extraordinary powers of coercive 
legislation had been tried and found wanting: parUament had done its 
best, or its worst, and could do no more. A Convention Act had not pre- 
vented the organisation of a host of secret affiliated societies, with republi- 
canism and separation for their end, and French alliance for their means ; 
nor had a Gunpowder Act hindered the Ulster Union from enrolling and 
drilling its hundred thousand citizen-soldiers. The transportation, without 
judge or jury, of thousands of the peasantry, had not secured the loyalty of 
the millions that remained; the Insurrection Act had failed of quelling the 
insurrectionary spirit ; the Habeas Corpus Suspension had crowded the 
gaols, the barracks, and the tenders with seditious and treasonable indivi- 
duals, yet sedition and treason were more plentiful in the land than ever. 
The system of coercive and penal legislation had been Worked out to its 
full length, and had failed. Coercive law would not do— -law in any shape 
would not do : there was nothing left for it but to draw the sword. On 
the 3rd of March, Mr. Secretary Pelham wrote to General Lake, the com- 
mander of the forces in Ulster, directing him to disarm the province, to 
suppress all outrage, to disperse all assemblies having a tendency to 
outrage, without voaiting for the civil authority — and generally, to act as 
a sort of Committee of Public Safety. In consequence of these instructions, 
General Lake issued, on the 13th of that month, a proclamation, which was 
in fact a sentence of outlawry and attainder on the whole north of 
Ireland : — 

** Belfast, March 13, 1797. 
" Whebeas the daring and horrid outrages in many parts of this provincei evidently 
perpetrated with a view to supersede the laws and the administration of justice by an 
organised system of murder and robbery, have increased to such an alarming degree, as 
from their atrocity and extent to bid defiance to the civil power, and to endanger the 
lives and properties of his Majesty's faithful subjects ; and whereas, the better to effect 
their traitorous purposes, several persons who have been enrolled under the authority 
of his Majesty's commission, and others, have been forcibly and traitorously deprived of 
their arms ; it is therefore become indispensably necessary for the safety and protection 
of the well-disposed, to interpose the king's troops under my command: and I do hereby 
give notice that I have received authority and directions to act in suchmanner as the public 

Clelandy a magistrate of the said county,** This Rev. John Cleland had been private 
tutor to Lord Castlereagh. The disclosures made to government through this channel 
range over a period of nearly fourteen months, from April, 1797, to May, 1798. 
^ See Teeling's << Personal Narrative," pp. 23-25. 


•ofety may require, I do therefore hereby enjoin and requiifd all persons in this district 
(peace officers and those serving in a military capacity excepted), forthwith to bring in 
and surrender up all arms and ammunition which they may have in their possession to 
the officer commanding the king's troops in their neighbourhood. 

'* I trust that an immediate compliance with this order may render any aet of mine to 
enforce it unnecessary. 

" Let the people seriously reflect, before it is too late, on the ruin into which they are 
rushing ; let them reflect upon their present prosperity ^ and the miseries in which they will 
inevitably be involved by persisting in acts of positive rebellion ; let them instantly, by 
surrendering up their arms, and by restoring those traitorously taken from the king's 
forces, rescue themselves from the severity of military authority. Let all the loyal and 
well-intentioned act together with energy and spirit in enforcing subordination to the 
laws, and restoring tranquillity in their respective neighbourhoods, and they may be 
assured of protection and support from me. 

'* And I do hereby invite all persons who are enabled to give information touching arms or 
ammunition which may be concealed, immediately to communicate the tame to the several 
officers commanding his Majesty's forces in their respective districts ; and, for their 
encouragement and reward, I do hereby promise and engage that strict and inviolate 
secresy shall be observed with respect to all persons who shall make such communication, 
and that every person who shall make it shall receive as a reward the full value of all 
such arms and ammunition as shall be seized in consequence thereof. 

*'G. Lake, Lieutenant-General 

" Commanding the Northern District." 

Thus was the entire north of Ireland handed oyer to a military despotism. 
Yet " military despotism " is scarcely the true word. Military despotism 
is stem, hard, severe, but it is not necessarily cruel— is not cruel for the 
sake of cruelty. Its severity is cold and passionless ; its crimes are means 
to an end ; its violences are the product of calculation, the incidents of a 
system of policy. The state of things which this proclamation created and 
announced was not martial law simple, but martial law with religious and 
political partisanship ; martial law in the hands of a banditti of Orangemen; 
martial law seeking the aid of spies and informers ; martial law doing the 
work of an inquisition, and with the usual Inquisitorial appliances of 
espionage and torture ; martial law without military discipline or military 
honour. In that inquest for concealed arms and anmiunition, every kind 
and degree of atrocity was practised, without restraint and without punish- 
ment. All the sanctities and decencies of life were outraged ; eVery man's 
house, property, person, and family lay at the mercy of an armed mob of 
soldiery and yeomanry that knew no mercy 5 arson, robbery, murder, rape 
had a chartered impunity ; no man was safe, in his house or out of his 
house, by day or by night, who was rich, or had an enemy, or was sus- 
pected, or was suspected of being suspected. It was now that a le^n of 
spies and informers — afterwards better known as a " Battalion of Testi- 
mony ''-^-began to be organised and drilled for the basest uses of a wicked 
government. It was now that treachery and perjury began to take rank 
among the constituted authorities ; and the vilest of the vile — fed, lodged 
and clothed at the people's cost — ^were taken into the closet confidences of 
secretaries of state, and commissioned to direct the movements of general 
officers. And it was now that that execrable system begpn, of putting 
suspected persons to the torture to obtain confession, which, though shame- 
lessly denied in England, was shamelessly practised in Ireland, and will 
remain down against us, the blackest spot in all British history, so long 
as the chronicles of that horrible time shaU endure. But we need not 
speak further of these things now. The system of civil espionage and 

IBISH Bt:BELI.I01f. 127 

military torture wad as jet but in its infancy : we shall find both the hateful 
things again, some months later, matured into their full-grown proportions. 
The &rst results of the proclamation of the 13th of March were far from 
corresponding with the intentions and expectations of the government. 
The people were exasperated rather than subdued. The disarming went 
on but slowly ; and the numberSf zeal, and determination of the United 
Irishmen continued to increase. It was plain that something more must 
be done. The government had not yet got at the root of the matter : it 
must obtain more precise and definite information of the aims, methods, 
extent, and resources of the vast secret confederacy which it sought to 
crush, and carry on the war on a larger scale of military operations. The 
information needed was, after a while, obtained. On the 14th of April, 
intelligence was received at head-quarters that certain societies or com- 
mittees of United Irishmen were to meet that day at the house of one John 
Alexander, in Belfast. Colonel Barber and a detachment of troops went to 
the house« apprehended fifteen individuals forming two committees, and 
seized their papers. These papers were, on the 29th, laid before the 
House of Commons by order of the Lord Lieutenant, and referred to a 
Secret Committee, who, on the 10th of May, gave in their Report, with 
the papers annexed as evidence. The Report, after detailing the proceedings 
of the earlier societies of United Irishmen, and disclosing so much as its 
authors then knew of the constitution and objects of the more recent or- 
ganisation, sums up as follows : — 

"It appears, from a variety of evidence, that no means are neglected for establishing 
their constitution and enforcing obedience to their laws ; that contributions aie levied to 
defray the expenses of the society ; that threats and intimidations are employed against 
witnesses and jurymen, as a means to prevent their associates from being brought to 
justice, and that a committee is appointed to defray the expences of defending such as 
are brought to trial or are in prison ; that the assistance of the French is expected, and 
held forth as negociated for ; that at Belfast alone exist eighty societies at least, and 
that emissaries are employed to extend these societies ; that arms and ammunition are 
procured, pikes bought, officers appointed, military discipline recommended and enforced 
by oaths to be taken by officers and men ; provision for the families of their society, 
during their exertions in the field; that suspected persons are brought to account 
for their actions ; and it hat been stated in evidence that a tribunal is appoitUed for this pur- 
pose, who try the offenders in their absence, and determine their pwixshme^U even to the 

* We subjoin a few extracts from the documents appended to tliis Report, and partly 
confirmatory of its statements. They show, better than any mere general description, 
the sort of elements of which the practical working force of the Union consisted, and 
their ordinary ways of going on. We quote verbatim et literatim : — 

" Provincial Reports. — Reporied in the County C. that the Privy Coimcil of Ireland 
summoned the titlar bishops, and bribed them with 500 guineas, and desired them to 
summon the priests, and the priests for to do all in their power to find out if any of their 
hearers was U. I-i^.-.n, or held any conversation with the like, and if there was any 
that was, or did so, to excommunicate them from the church. Your County C. thinks 

that if there is any U, I n on the Jury that unll commit any cf the prisoners that is eon^ 

fined for being U. I ■ n, ought to lose their existence.** 

** Belfast, Baronial Reports. — ^The reports sooner nox usual on account ofour friends being 
expected soon into Bantry. Government is usinar all means in their power to put us 
into insurrection ; the executive is taking ptoper measures to appoint proper officers. 

* * * No person to insult yeomen on account of some of them turning out. Set your 
face against bank notee and excise business, as that is the best means to harass the government. 

* * * You are to let the officers know their men, and the men their officers, and 
do not faU to engage them in a solemn manner, that they may call them out on one 
minute's warning, and that they may by that means endeavour to see them armed in the 


That is, assuming the authenticity of this most apocryphal revelation, 
the rebels had their Secret Committee and their Habeas Corpus Suspension 
Act, as well as the government. Unhappily for Ireland, the iniquity of 
'' trjring offenders in their absence, and determining their punishment even 
to the death," had been in use in high places long before societies of 
United Irishmen were heard of. The existence of any such tribunal as that 
here spoken of needs, however, to be substantiated by better evidence than 
the allegation of a secret committee. The amount of credibility attaching 
to certson things " stated in evidence " on this occasion wUl be better 
understood presently, when we come to speak of a man to whom this com- 
mittee was under very considerable obligations — the Informer Newell. 

This report was the signal for new and stronger measures of coercion. 
Mr. Secretary Pelham, on presenting it to the House, said that '^ it 
must convince every man that it was not legislation which should be 
resorted to to suppress this daring and dark conspiracy, but those strong 
measures which the executive government had already adopted^ with 
the approbation of the House." It appeared, from the papers of the United 
Irishmen, that but a small proportion of the arms in their possession had as 
yet been seized or surrendered ; and it was deemed necessary to prosecute 
the inquisition with more vigour. The government were much annoyed, 
too, at that time, by a series of public meetings (of the legal and constitu- 

mo8t speedy manner. There is no time to be lost, for the grand committee think that if 
one of the prisoners ice let them be hanged, toe should forfeit our intention for evermore. 
For we know not the minute we'll be called on to give an account; for our friends is 
hourly expected." 

*' V, Irishmen are warned not to cut timber that does not belong to themselves on 
any acct; for if they be prosecuted for the same they will not meet with any support 
whatever, as it brings & reproach on the cause They are also warned agst partial 
insurrections of every kind, but to be obedient to the present laws by a prudent and 
sober conduct, for by persevering in union we will at length work our own freedom in 
spite of all opposition. As soon as the South is properly org<l, a national convention 
will be established, which is expected soon to take place." 

" County Report, April 11th, 1797. — Antrim, 22,716 men; 2,248 guns; 1,748 
bayonets; 417 pistols; 863 swords; 4,888 pikes. • ♦ ♦ Recommended to the 
Provensal C to form a plan of provision for poor men's familys daring our exhor- 
shings in the field. Fulton and M*Cormick afirs i^ settled. John brother-in-law to 
Henry Sinclair from Crew, Kinly Sherlick Dimanry is a bad man, and is wery dangeries 
to the cause. John Love belly moner a bad man, very dangers to the cause. A risulition 
we again declare it, that it is highly improper to hold any communication with persons 
out of society, not nowing them to be regular members. — Resolved that it is recom- 
mended to the different societys that is able to enter into a yoluntary subscription 
for the use of arming those that is not able." 

It is but justice to add, with reference to one of the above quotations, that there is no 
evidence whatever of assassination having ever formed a part of the United Irish system. 
That murders were committed, on the one side a<) on the other, by individuals and by 
knots of individuals, under the impulse or the pretext of political fanaticism — ^is un- 
doubtedly true :' but of anything like a regular, systematic policy of assassination, prac- 
tised by the members of the^Union with the sanction of its heads, history knows nothing. 
One infamous journal, the ITnion Star (established in Dublin in the summer of 1797), 
openly advocated and advised the assassination of individuals, by name and personal 
description ; but the atrocity was utterly repudiated by the leaders of the Union, and 
strongly denounced by the Press, at that time their only recognised literary organ. It 
throws some light on the merits of this question, that the Union Star was the only paper 
professing United Irish politics which escaped government prosecution and suppression 
by military violence. Its editor made favouiable terms with the government, and was 
suisequentlg pensioned. 


tional sort) in several of the counties, at which addresses were voted for 
the removal of Mr. Pitt, and the adoption of a conciliatory policy. This was 
a nuisance that called for prompt abatement ; added to which. Ministers 
had been more than ever frightened by the disclosures — many of them 
utterly fictitious— -of a man of the name of Newell,* a renegade Defender 

* This man's career is deserving of particular notice ; it is a pretty complete epitome, 
and a most instructive one, of the state of Ireland in 1797. 

«* Edward John Newell," says Dr. Madden ("United Irishmen," Second Series, 
vol. i., Appendix) ** was a native of Downpatrick, a portrait painter by profession. 
Treachery seemed to be the ruling passion of this man's life. To every friend or party 
he connected himself with he was false. He betrayed the secrets of the United Irish 
Society, professedly to prevent the murder of an exciseman named Murdock. He ingra- 
tiated himself into the confidence of Murdock, and then robbed him of the affections of 
his wife. He became one of the regular corps of ruffians, called the 'Battalion of Tes- 
timony,' who had apartments provided for them at the Castle, within the precincts of 
that pUce, which was the residence of the Viceroy, and the centre of the official business 
of the government. Having sold his former associates to the government, and by his 
own account having been the cause of two hundred and twenty-seven arrests, and the 
occasion of the flight of upwards of three hundred persons from their habitations, and 
many of them from their country, in consequence of the informations he had laid against 
them, he next betrayed the government, published their secrets, and fled from the 
service of Mr. Cooke to that of the Northern United Irishmen. • • ♦ * The self- 
importance of this miscreant knew no bounds. He was on terms of familiar intercourse 
with the Chief Secretary and Crown Solicitor ; he corresponded with general officers, 
and had power to command their co-operation when and how he thought fit to make his 
requisition for it. He swaggered about the Castle-yard with all the consequence of a 
distinguished government official. He disregarded the ordinary rules and regulations of 
the Major's department in the Castle. At length he carried his audacity to the point of 
taking a pistol from his pocket, and deliberately firing at a sentinel on duty at the 
lower Castle-gate, who impeded his entrance at an hour when it was forbidden to allow 
persons to pass. He was in the act of discharging a secood pistol at the sentinel, when 
he was overpowered and conveyed to the guard-house. In the morning Mr. Newell was 
released, when it was discovered who he was. He was then sent for to the Castle, and 
instead of being forthwith committed to Newgate for this capital offence, he was repri-' 
manded by Mr. Secretary/ Cooke,*' 

In the narrative, entitled, ** The Apostacy of Newell, containing the Life and Confes- 
sions of that celebrated Informer " (written by himself), NeweU gives the following 
account of his first interview with Mr. Cooke, at Dublin Castle : — 

" To open the soul, to give the tongue an unrestrained command, ^the wine was freely 
circulated. The Secretary set his pens and papers ready for the work ;' but I, not choosing 
to trust much to such people, who, when they have got you in their power, think it the 
greatest and most fashionable way to forget their promises and plighted honour when the 
service is over, refused to tell anything until I had received a pardon for the crimes I 
had committed* 

" Mr. Cooke. — Will you trust to my honour ? 
" NeweU, — Not in this case. 
" C. — I assure you, you may rely on me. 

" N. — I don't doubt it ; but, you'll pardon me, where the life is affected I rely on 
no man. 

" C. — Making out a pardon will take up some days ; the people of the north will hear 
you are here, and they will counteract our schemes, and perhaps get off. 

" N. — ^That, sir, is not my fault ; this is my determination. There is no harm done ; 
I can letum again. 

«< C. — Would not a written pardon from the Lord-Lieutenant satisfy you, till we can 
get one made out? I assure you it is of equal power. You know, my dear Mr. Neicell, 
Uie state of the country. You know there is no time to be lost, and that government, 
for their own sake, would not desert you ; if they did, could they expect others to come 
forward like you ? 

" N. — Sir, confident of the propriety of what you say, a written pardon shall satisfy 


and United Irishman ; who, on the 13th of April, had got himself mtro« 
duced to Mr. Secretary Cooke at Dublin Castle, received the Lord Lieu- 
tenant's pardon for all past offences against his Majesty's peace and crown, 
entered on regular duty as a spy and informer, and commenced his task 
with swearing that a general insurrection and French invasion might he 
speedily expected. The consequence was that a further proclamation — 
designated by the Secret Committee of the following year " a measure, 
under the circumstances of the case, strictly defensive" — was issued on the 
17th of May. The "strictly defensive" proclamation, after stating that 
the exertions of the civil power had proved ineffectual for the suppression 
of the traitorous and wicked conspiracy, &c., and that it had become 
necessary to employ the military force for the immediate suppression, &c., 
gave the " most direct and effectual orders to all officers commanding his 

me for the present. Mr. Cooke then wrote to the Lord Lieutenant, and in a few- 
minutes presented me with a paper, of which this is a copy : — 

'Dublin Castle, April I3ih, 1797. 

<Sir, — I desire you will inform Edward John Newell that I hereby pardon him 
whatever offences he may have committed against his allegiance, and against his Majesty's 
peace and crown. 

* I am, sir, your obedient humble tervant, 

« E. Cooke, Esq. • Camden.' 

" This night he did not form examinations, but asked me several questions. I in- 
formed nim of the most of what I could; mentioned the men I thought dangerous, &c., 
of all which he made notes. I was then permitted to depart. I waited on him early in 
the morning. During nine hours I sat with Cooke he drew out my examinations, 
the theory of which was mostly/ true, Init which his inventive genius highly embellished, 

" Mr. Cooke, I call upon you, is this net true? Did you not make me enter in my list 
men with whose very names I was unacquainted f Oh! guarclian worthy of our constitution ! 
Did you not make me arrest the friend of the poor, the comforter of the afflicted, and a 
man of respectability, Dr. Crawford, of lisburn, only because in our discourse I men- 
tioned having once dined in his company ? 

" Was I not obliged, to please you, to form a murder, to which I was to appear accessary, 
because you would not be content without it ? You knew, you said, I belonged to an assas- 
sination committee. You were sure, from my character, that I was privy to murder. 

" I told you of one, for which you well knew examinations were lodged six months 
before, by one really present. Could then a man be murdered twice? 

" Did you not, Mr. Cooke, see the falsehood, the improbability of people trusting such 
a business to a fortnight's knowledge ? Did you not paint to me the improbability 
of the accusation ? Did you not bid me swear, absolutely swear, the time was longer f — told 
me so short a time woM prejudice a jury against it" &r. 

The result of this and other interviews was that Newell was sent, two days afterwards, 
to Belfast, with a letter of introduction to General Lake, in which the Secretary actually 
says — " You will please to allow him any money or number of men he may demand ; 
they are to obey his orders, and you are to take hisadcice in allaffairs relative to this business.** 
At Belfast Newell spent a week or ten days, giving his ordeis to generals and colonels, 
commanding the Commander-in-Chief — ^actually threatening him, when refractory, with 
government displeasure — demolishing what he pleased, arresting whom he pleased (" the 
sport of tnan-hunting ** the fellow calls it), and drawing the public money as often and as 
largely as the needs of his profligacy required. He returned to Dublin in time to give 
evidence before the Secret Committee ; took up his abode in the Castle, where apart- 
ments were assigned him, and ** dined and supped at the Castle Tavern at the rate of 
three guineas a day, which Mr. Cooke cheetfulty accounted for.** 

His account of his evidence before the Secret Committee is ludicrous enough — ^yct 
there is a giave moral with it, too : — 

" On the 3rd of May I attended in the Speaker's Chamber, at the Parliament House ; 
and, at two o'clock, was admitted to the room where the Secret Committee of the Com* 


Majesty's troops, by the exertion of their utmost force, to suppress the 
same." All officers, civil and military, were strictly enjoined to use their 
utmost endeavours to discover all pikes, pike-heads, concealed guns and 
swords, offensive weapons, or ammunition of any kind whatever — and to 
suppress all traitorous, tumultuous and unlawful assemblies, " without 
waiting for the directions of the civil piagistrate." The proclamation 
likewise promised pardon to all persons who had been " seduced or intimi- 
dated " into joining the United Irish Societies, if they should sun*ender 
themselves and take the oath of allegiance on or before the 24th of June 
then next ; " save and except all such as have been guilty of murder, 
conspiracy of murder, burglary, burning of houses, corn or hay, stacks of 
straw or tiuf, maliciously digging up or injuring or destroying any pota- 
toes, flax or hemp, rape or corn of any kind, planted or sowed, or destroying 

mons viere then sitting. After the usual formalities, I was with great ceremony placed 
in a high chair, for the benefit of being better heard. 

" I went through the subject of the examinations, improving largely on the flints and 
instructions Cooke had given me ,* propcigating circumstances which never had^ nor, I suppose, 
ever will happen ; increased the number of United Irishmen, their quantity of arms and 
ammunition; fabricated stories which helped to terrify them, and raised me high in their 
estimation, as a man whose peifect knowledge of this business made his information of 
the highest importance. 1 told them of laws framed to govern the republic, when they 
had overthrown the present government, many of which they appoved of highly, 
though they had no foundation but the effusions of my own brain. I embellifched 
largely the dangers that royalty and its fiiends were liable to from the machinatioiis 
of the United men, who, I informed them, were regularly disciplined, and constantly im- 
proving themselves in military tactics : assured them there were men of the first rank 
and abilities connected with this business ; tliat the French were hourly expected — they 
were to land at Galway, not at Bantry, as they supposed ; that the people looked with 
eagerness for their arrival ; and that government should not trust the people in the 
south, who had formerly pretended to rise in their defence, their loyalty being only 
finesse, the readier to join the French on their landing; that I was confident, from the 
disposition of the people, they would, in a few weeks, even if they did not arrive, attempt 
an insurrection, in which they were sure of succeeding, on account of their numbers, the 
justice of their cause, and their hopes from the soldiery. 

" They seemed dreadfully terrified at my information, and instantly became incapable 
of asking me any more questions relative to this business. Will it be believed that a 
boy, even one of the swinish multitude of the north, tilled with consternation and terror 
the leaders of the army and the senate i * * • The Attorney-General, after a long dis- 
course upon the nature and danger of what we had heard, addressed me : * Mr. New ell, you 
must now consider that we are a select committee of the Parliament of Ii eland ; that 
that Parliament is to be guided by these gentlemen^ and that these gentlemen are to be guided 
in their proceedings by you; weigh well, then, the situation in which you now sit, and its 
consequences, and tell me, would a reform of Parliament please the people, and put an end to 
disturbances?* Sir, from my knowledge, nothing but the overthrow of Government and 
establishing a republic would now satisfy the people ! " 

On Newell's secession from srovernment service, early in the next year, he went to a 
place of concealment near Belfast, where he wrote his " Life and Confessions." " Here,** 
he says, ** I bid along adieu to all my greatness, and put an end to a life of upwards of ten 
months, which was fraught with every scene of infamy, luxury, and debauchery ; during 
which I must have cost the government a sum of no less than two thousand pounds, as a 
reward for having in that short time been the cause of confining two hundred and 
twenty-seven innocent men to languish in either the cell of a bastile, or the hold of a 
tender; and, as I have heard, has been the cause of many of their deaths; as also for 
having been the cause of upwards of three hundred having fied from their habitations, 
their families and industry, to hide in the mountains, or seek for safety in some distant 

Any comment on the above were superfluous. Against a government that could 
work so, and with such tools, rebellion stands in need of no justification — except 


meadows or hay, maiming or houglung of cattle, administering or causing 
to be administer^ any milawful oath or engagement to any of Ms Majesty's 
forces of any description, or inciting or encouraging any person to commit 
any of the aforesaid offences respectively, and save and except aUper" 
Bonsnom in custody.** 

Newell's informati(» to Mr. Secretary Cooke turned out to be substan* 
daily correct ; and the policy of terror and coercion, ^^ without waiting for 
the civil authority," probably was, *•* under the circumstances of the case, 
strictly defensive." Shame on the government that had made such de-* 
fences necessary to itself! Shortly after Newell's disclosiu'es, the subject 
of a general rising was seriously discussed at the meetings of the Union. 
The organised and regimented hundred thousand were impatient to begin, 
and their more prudent or timid leaders had long found the utmost cQffi- 
culty in restraining them. Ever ^ince the beginning of the year they had 
been waiting, and waiting, for the French, till they could wait no longen 
The National Directory had already (March) sent one agent, Lewines, to 
urge the French government to a speedy fulfilment of its promises, and 
were on the point of dispatching another. Dr. Macneven, with still more 
pressing supplications. Promises and assurances in abundance had been 
received, but as yet no performance since the Bantry Bay attempt ; and 
hope deferred was producing its usual result of heart-sickness. The ap* 
pearance of the proclamation of the 17th of May was a loud call — ^if not 
to action — at all events to a prompt decision whether to act or not. The 
menace of coercion and the promise of pardon would alike tend to thin 
their ranks and abate their zeal, unless something were done ; French aid 
seemed as far off as ever ; and the feeling gained ground in the councils of 
the Union that, if ever they meant to do anything, now was the time. Ac- 
cordingly, in the month of June, a plan for a general rising was much dis- 
cussed, both at Dublin and in the North. But there was no unanimity. The 
Dublin delegates rebuked the precipitancy of the Northerns : these were 
disgusted with the cowardice of their metropolitan brethren, and imable to 
agree among themselves. The whole affair ended in a hasty and abortive 
outbreak in the county ot Down, which met with no support, and was 
suppressed with ease by the government. The disarming then went on 
fast. The Secret Committee of 1798 say — 

** The effect of the measures then adopted was immediately felt. The arms of the 
disaffected, bj/ necessary acts of coercion, were collected throughont the province in great 
numbers ; the loyal were encouraged to declare themselves ; such as had been misled 
came in in crowds to take the benefit of the proclamation of pardon, which was extended 
for another month. Outrage ceased ; and public confidence was so far restored through- 
out Ulster in the course of the months of July and August, that the laws were administered 
with effect in the different counties during the autumn circuit, and the manufacturing in- 
dustry of the country was lestored to its usual vigour during the remainder of the 

And, on the 3rd of July, the Lord Lieutenant prorogued Parliament, 
with expressions of satisfaction with the past and trust for the future :— 

" I have already the satisfaction to acquaint yon, that great numbers who had been 
unfortunately seduced have returned to a sense of duty, and been admitted to his Ma- 
jesty's clemency; and I trust that by perseverance and energy every vestige of disaffection 
will be effaced," 

The facts stated by these high government authorities are, on the whole , 


truly stated : but the government theory of those facts was false. The 
" necessary acts of coercion" had suppressed, for a while, the external 
vestiges of disaffection. The people were losing heart and hope. Their 
confidence in themselves and in their leaders was diminished. They dis- 
trusted their foreign allies, and the men by whom the foreign alliance had 
been negociated. The French had been coming, and coming, ever since 
January — but did not come. Dissensions had revived between the Pres- 
byterians and the Catholics, the latter of whom soon afterwards gave signs 
(by loyal addresses and resolutions) of a desire to make a separate peace 
with the government. In Ulster, in particular, the strength of the Union 
was very much broken. The inferior societies generally discontinued their 
meetings; the subscription lists fell off; and many counties refused to 
send delegates to the provincial committee. The following (from the 
Appendix to the Report of 1798) exhibits the imsatisfactory state of the 
Union at this period : — 

^ Provincial Meeting, Randaktown, August 14th, 1797. 
" Five persons present. * * * They think they can bring for- 
** mcard the whole nation yet to act in a very short space of time, even 
*^ in case the French should be frustrated in making a descent, which they 
" are perfectly assured is their intention at this very instant. * * * 
*' They reported that there are a number of societies formed in North 
'' America, whose object is to assist Ireland ; the Executive acknowledges 
** receiving the sum of 211 dollars from the said societies in the course of 
** these eight days. Report that no money is to be had from the people^ 
*' the county Antrim excepted.*' 

" Provincial Committee, Dungannon, September 14th. 
" Ten members present. A person just arrived from France. He 
^ brought word that the French had everything ready for making a de- 
** scent, and that the most part of the troops were on board ; and that the 
** Directory had given orders to their Admiral to proceed as soon as the 
" wind would answer. * * * Every man was asked if Tie thought 
** his constituents would yet act as formerly? General answer, they 
" would^ IP they saw an equal ch>ance'^ 

It was true, then, as the government authorities triumphantly alleged, 
that coercion had not been without its effect in repressing the manifesta- 
tions of disaffection. During the latter part of 1797, a something existed 
in Ireland which might very possibly be mistaken for peace, law, and order. 
But the government theory of the matter was a fatal and desperate fallacy. 
When, where, and how, since the creation of this world, was the " disaf- 
fection" of an oppressed nation "effaced" by "perseverance and energy" 
in martial law and military torture ? 

'< I have seen in Ireland,'* said Ettrl liloira, <' the most absurd, as well as the most 
disgusting tyranny, that any nation ever groaned under. I have been myself a witness 
of it in many instances ; I have seen It practised and unchecked* I have seen in that 
country a marked distinction made between the English and Irish. I have ^een troops 
that have been sent full of this prejudice, that every inhabitant of that kingdom is a 
rebel to the British government. I have seen the most wantqp insults practised upon 
men of all ranks and conditions. I have seen the most grievous oppressions exercised, 
in consequence of a presumption that ttie perscHi who was the unfortunate object of such 
oppression was in hostility to the government ; and yet that has been done in a part of 



the country aa quiet and as free from disturbance as the city of London. Who states 
these things should, I \inow, he prejiared with proofs, I am prepared tcith them. ♦ ♦ * 
In former times it has been the custom for Englishmen to hold the infamous proceedings 
of the inquisition in detestation. One of the greatest horrors with which it was at- 
tended was that the person, ignorant of the crime laid to his charge or of his accuser, 
was torn from his family, immured in a prison, and in the most cruel uncertainty as to 
the period of his confinement or the fate which awaited him To this injustice, abhorred 
by Protestants in the practice of the Inquisition, are the people of Ireland exposed. All 
confidence, all security, are taken away. In alluding to the Inquisition, I have omitted 
to mention one of its characteristic features. If the supposed culprit refuses to acknow- 
ledge the crime with which he is charged, he is put to the rack, to extort confession of 
whatever crime is alleged against him by the pressure of torture. The same proceedings 
have been introduced into Ireland. When a man is taken up on suspicion, he is put to 
the torture ; nay, if he be merely accused of concealing the guilt of another. ITie rack, 
indeed, is not at hand ; but the ptmithment of picketing is in practice, which has been for some 
years abolished^ as too inhuman even for the dragoon service. I have known a man, in order 
to extort confession of a supposed crime, or of that of some of his neighbours, picketed 
until he actually fainted ; picketed a secotid time, until hefaitited again; as soon as he came 
to himself, picketed a third time, until he once more fainted — and all upon mere suspicion! 
Nor is this the only species of torture ; many have been taken and hung up until they were 
half dead, and then threatened with a repetition of the cruel treatment, unless they made 
eotfession of the imputed guilt. These are not particular acts of cruelty, exercised by men 
abusing the power committed to them, but they form apart of our system ; they are noto- 
rious. This, however, is not all. Your lordships, no doubt, will recollect the famous 
proclamation issued by a military commander in Ireland, requiring the people to give 
up their arms. It never was denied that this proclamation was illegal, though defended 
on some supposed necessity. In the execution of this order the greatest cruelties have 
been committed. If any one was suspected to have concealed weapons of defence, his 
house, his furniture, and all his property were burned. But this is not all. If it was 
supposed that any district had not surrendered all the arms which it contained, a party 
was sent out to collect the number at which it was rated; and in the execution of this 
order, thirty houses have sometimes been burned down in a single night. Officers took 
on themselves to decide discretionally the quantity of arms ; and upon their opinions 
these fatal consequences followed. Many such cases might be enimierated ; but, from 
prudential motives, I wish to draw a veil over more aggravated facts which I could have 
stated, and which lam willing to attest before the Privy Couttcil or at your Lordsh^s' bar, 
lliese facts are well known in Ireland, but they cannot be made public through the 
channel of the newspapers, for fear of that summary mode of punishment which has been 
practised towards the Northern Star." * 

And yet they " trusted that, by perseverance and energy" in such 
courses, " every vestige of disaffection would be effaced !" The thing 
could only have been done by carrying the perseverance and energy the 
length of physically effacing every vestige of the people. It is true, that 
towards the close of 1797 Ireland was, temporarily and in appearance, 
quieted by the coercive measures of the government, and that military 
violence and terrorism were considerably abated. But the matter could not, 
in the nature of things, end where it was. Without a radical and sweeping 
change of men and measures, coercion, once begun, must go on. Relaxa- 
tion, isuspension, abatement of hostilities, could only be interpreted, after 
what had been, as a sign of weakness — an invitation to more rebellion, to 

* Speech in the British House of Lords, November, 22, 1797. The ministerial reply 
(delivered by the mouth of Lord Grenville) to this proffer of evidence and prayer for 
inquiry was — " If such excesses were perpetrated, were there no courts of justice, no 
laws, no magistrates, no tribunals open to the complaints of the oppressed ? Ireland 
had its juries as well as this country; and the same safeguards were provided for the 
lives of the Irish as for Bjoglishmen : indeed, if a system so rigorous as was described had 
been pursued, it must naturally be resented by a spirited and independent pwple^* 

The cool mockery of this did more to exasperate Ireland than all the ferocious extrava- 
gances of the Beresfords and Fitzgibbons. 


be put down by more coercion. The United Irishmen, though cast down, 
were not destroyed. They learned from experience. They determined to 
hazard no further effort for the present without foreign aid ; to risk no 
premature and partial outbreak ; to risk nothing, so long as they were 
gaining strength ; to extend their organisation, multiply their resources, 
husband their strength, add to their stock of arms, and wait for events. 
The temper so unexpectedly evinced by the Munster peasantry on the 
arrival of the French in the previous winter showed them that they had 
over-calculated the effect of ages of " misery, oppression, and famine" 
on the loyalty of the millions, and they determined that, when the French 
came again, there should be no mistake. Accordingly, during the remain- 
der of this year the chiefs of the Union directed all their energies to the pro- 
selytising of the South and West. Emissaries from Ulster and the metro- 
polis went though the provinces of Munster and Connaught, fraternised 
i?rith the Defenders, dropped " republicanism and the rights of man" — 
topics little understood in those quarters— and were eloquent on the tithe 
of potatoes. Their labours were eminently successful. New societies 
were everywhere formed ; the prsedial Defender agitation was absoibed 
into the poHtical United Irish agitation, '' insomuch that, in the course of 
the autumn and winter of 1797, the peasantry in the midland and southern 
eoimties were sworn and ripe for insurrection.'* The views of these 
new United Irishmen were not, it may be supposed, by any means " en- 
lightened." The ideas of the Emmets, Neilsons, and Macnevens were not 
their ideas. The United Irish system was, to them, little else than the old 
system of Defenderism, or Whiteboyism, under a new name, made effici- 
ent and respectable by an unlooked-for accession of aUies from the middle 
and higher classes of society. But, however defective their theory of re- 
publican government, they were perfectly well versed in the practice of 
rebellion ; and this union of the intellectual with the physical force of the 
country — this alliance of the speculative republicanism of the Presbyterian 
north with the practical wrongs and wretchedness of the Catholic south, 
boded, for the coming year, a convulsion desperate and deadly. 

Meanwhile, fresh provocatives to rebellion were administered by the in*- 
cendiaries of Dublin Castle — the " ringleaders of sedition placed in 
authority," as Grattan called them. If the work of wholesale coercion by 
the sword went on slackly, it was that the government might have breath- 
ing time to work the machinery of law against a few selected victims. 
" Had not Ireland juries ? " asked Lord Grenville. • A case occurred 
towards the close of this year 1797, which excited the deepest sympathy 
with the individual sufferer, and universal execration- (wherever men had 
courage to execrate) against the government. In the month of October, 
William Okb was executed in the north, on the charge of administering 
the United Irish oath to one Hugh Wheatly, a soMier of the Scotch Fen- 
cibles. It was as distinct a case of murder as the records of judicial or 
official crime have to show. Three of the jury that had found him guilty 
(with a recommendation to mercy) made affidavit in open court that 
whisky had been brought into the jury -room ; that some of their fellow- 
jurors had threatened them with the vengeance of government if they ac- 
quitted the prisoner ; that others had assured them that a verdict, not an 
execution, was the object of the government, and that the prisoner's life was 

♦ Report of Secret Committee of 1798. 


safe ; and that, under the influence of intimidation, liquor, and the physical 
exhaustion of thirteen hours' deliberation, their verdict of Guilty had been 
given. Abundant proof was adduced, likewise, that the informer Wheatly 
was a man of infamous life and reputation ; and subsequently he declared 
on oath his compunction for this and other perjuries. The recommenda- 
tion to mercy, and the confessions of the jurors, were laid before the Lord 
Lieutenant : not without result ; for the prisoner was respited — ^respited 
three successive times, and executed at last. Mercy was offered him on 
the sole condition of his declaring himself guilty : but truth was dearer to 
Orr than life. He died protesting his innocence. 

" The story of his last moments, as I liave heard it told by those who witnessed them, 
was thus : — 

" Upon the scaffold, nearest to him, and by his side, stood a Roman Catholic domestic, 
faithful and attached to him. Manacled and pinioned, he directed him to take from 
his pocket the watch whieh he had worn till now; that time had ceased for him, and 
his hours and minutes were no longer to be measures of his existence. * You, my friend, 
and I must now part. Our stations here on earth have been a little different, and our 
modes of worshipping that Almighty Being whom we both adore — ^before his presence 
we shall stand both equal. Farewell— remember Orr.' " * 

'* Remember Orr! — Remember Orr/"— the words were written every- 
where, spoken everywhere. The last farewell of individual regard to a 
faithful servant became a patriotic watchword, a battle-cry of vengeance to 
an exasperated people: and in the stir and strife of the months that followed, 
with the maddening memory of the wrongs of centuries was mingled the 
fresh recollection of this crowning infamy, prompting all honest men to 










With the year 1797 the patriots lost all reasonable prospect of timely and 
efficient aid from France. The summer and autumn of that year brought 
a second disappointment to the hopes of Ireland, yet more tantalising than 
that of Bantry Bay, and a second deliverance to Great Britain, even more 
remote from the range of ordinary probabilities. Early in July all was 
ready at the Texel for a second expedition to Ireland, on a scale of effi- 
ciency and formidableness about equal to Hoche*s in the previous winter. 
The statesmen and generals of the young Batavian Republic, eager to 
emulate the glories of their fathers and re-assert their rank as a great 

* Speech of William Sampson, at Philadelphia, in 1831 (given by Dr. Madden). 


European power, had staked in the cause of liberty *' their last ship and 
their last shilling." Fifteen sail of the line, ten frigates, and twenty-seven 
transports, with fourteen thousand soldiers and the best of their generals 
and admirals, were the force destined to emancipate Ireland and dismember 
the empire of Britain. Again the good genius of England — or the evil 
genius of Ireland — prevailed. If that Texel armament could only have been 
got ready a month or two sooner ! — ^the British fleet was then up in mutiny, 
the wind fair, the coast clear, and the rebel army in Ireland ready waiting. 
It was now too late. The mutineer admiral, Parker, had been hanged at 
Sheemess on the last day of June, the mutiny was at an end, the wind had 
changed, and the mouth of the Texel was blockaded by Admiral Duncan 
and a south-wester. For five weeks together this double blockade lasted 
(the disarming of Ulster going on the while) ; and at length, by the middle of 
August, provisions ran short, the troops had to be disembarked, and the 
expedition was reUnquished. The end of this Texel business was on the 
llth of October, when Admiral Duncan annihilated the navy of Holland at 
Camperdown. Thus, by a combination and recurrence of casualties 
which no statesmanship could have anticipated or averted, was the British 
empire again saved from dismemberment, for the second time within eight 
mouths. About the same period, the death of Hoche and the political 
' proscription of Camot — the only two men in France who thoroughly 

' imderstood the interest France had in Ireland— precluded for the present 

all possibility of a third attempt. The French Directory kept on pro« 
^ mising, and the Irish Directory kept on hoping, the best they could; a 

' magnificent Arm^ dAngleterre was got up on paper ; but nothing was 

done — Ireland was left to fight her battle alone. 

It would have been better for Ireland if her patriots had prepared them- 
selves for this fi-om the beginning* Dependence* on French aid was their 
ruin.* The question^ whether to wait for the French or to act without 
them, divided and perplexed their counsels, and was fruitful of jealousies and 
dissensions ; the " rashness" of the one party, and the " timidity" of the 
other, were tempting topics of mutual recrimination whenever anything 
went wrong. The hope of foreign assistance prevented them from acting 
'^ at a time (the spring of 1797) when action might, not very improbably, 

5 have been attended with success ; the delay wearied and disheartened 

'O them ; the final disappointment hurried them into desperate and unpre- 

I pared exertion. The following extracts fix)m their papers show how mischiev- 

\ ously this French alliance operated ; alternately elating them with illusory 

I hopes, and depressing them with vexing and wasting disappointments : — 

" Provincial Meeting, October 14th, 1797, Armagh. 
\ ** Reported, that there had not been any information firom our delegates 

it '' in France, further than that one of them had drawn a biU for £160 on a 

D " member of the Executive. The opinion of the Executvce wcw, that the 

e '^ French should have been here by this time ; but they thought that the 

3 " British government had got into possession of the plan of the Executive, 

*' which has frustrated them for some time ; hut they were sure the 
** French never would make peace until they had fulfilled their en- 
) " gagem^nts with Ireland.'' 

* This was the opinion of one of the best and wisest men among them — Thomas Addis 
Emmet. — ^See Madden, l^econd Series, vol. ii., p. 38. 


" Provincial Meeting, Norember 14th, Armagh. 
" The secretary said, we all knew the expedition which was at the 
" Texel, destined for this country, had been put off, owing to the defeat of 
" the Batavian fleet ; but the Directory nere noro preparing a inore 
'''' formidable expedition for «w, rehich we might depend upon^ 

" Proyincial Meeting, December 14th, Randalstown. 
" Reports delivered, that the Executive Committee had not got any 
" information from France since the last meeting, but that they every day 
" expected the arrival of a delegate. They were sure the expedition was 
•' still preparing for Ireland.'* 

" Provincial Meeting, January 14th, 1798, Armagh. 
" The reporter said there had been a meeting ofthe National Committee, 
*' and it was found, notwithstanding all the depredations committed by the 
** military, that the upper provinces were in a tolerable state of organisa- 
•• tion. He said that one of our delegates had arrived from France. He 
" told the meeting that it had been an intention of the French to invade 
" Ireland only, and that they were to have put that into execution in this 
" month, but that the Directory had come to a second resolution t?iat they 
'^ would now Jit out a more formidable expedition, and that they would 
*' invade the whole three kingdoms at once. Therefore, from the mag- 
** nitude of such a great business, we need not expect them as soon as we 
*' did. He thought they could not come until it would be far on in the 
" spring" 

** Provincial Meeting, February let, Shane's Castle. 
*' The person who reported said, he wouldj by heavens, speak his 
" mind openly, for he was not afraid, as our delivery was now 
^ certain. He said the National Committee had met in Dublin that week, 
*' and that the upper provinces were all ready to act in a moment ; two 
" regiments in one province had offered to deliver it. He said we had 
" three delegates arrived from France, and that the French were going on 
" voith the expedition^ and that it was in a greater state of forward- 
'* ness than was expected ; but, what was more flattering, three delegates 
*' had been sent from the United Britons to our Nationsd Committee, and 
" that fi-om this very moment we were to consider England, Scotland, and 
^' Ireland all as one people, acting for one common cause. There were 
'^ legislators now chosen from the three kingdoms to act as an executive 
*'^ for the whole. He then produced an address which the delegates of 
" Bi-itain brought with them to our National Committee, and that was the 
" reason, he said, which made him so violent, as he was certain we could 
" now obtain liberty, although the French never should come here. He 
" told the delegates to cause the mei! to hold themselves in readiness, as 
" the hour of action could not be far distant." 

" Provincial Meeting, February 27th, Armagh. 

" The reporter said, we had a delegate arrived from France, and that 

" the French were using every endeavour to have the expedition for 

** this country completed, and that our delegate came home to cause us to 

" put om'selves into a state of organisation to join them, as the Directory 


" positively assured our delegates that the expedition would set out for 
** this country in the latter end of April or beginning of May" * 

Well might Theobald Wolfe Tone say, " unhappy is the nation whose 
liberty depends on the will of another." In this want of self-reliance, this 
fond and credulous leaning on other people's promises, this vacillating to 
and fro with every breath of rumour from abroad, we see the failure of 
the whole scheme foredoomed and foreshown. 

The first event which we have to note in the history of Ireland for the 
year 1798, is aptly illustrative of one of the influences that were then 
rising to the ascendency in the government of that fated land. On the 
16th of January, Pateick Finney — one of sixteen arrested at the same 
time, on the same charge and the same evidence — was tried in Dublin for 
high treason. The chief witness for the crown was one James O'Bkien, 
a worthy member and representative of that " Battalion of Testimony " 
of which we have more than once made mention — a horde of wretches, 
infamous by life and reputation, retained in the service of Town-Major 
Sirr, regularly domiciled in Dublin Castle and its precincts to be ready on 
the shortest notice for every description of assize duty ; housed, fed, and 
clothed at the public expense, and bountifully supplied with every luxury 
that the appetite of vulgar profligacy craves.f We have already had one 
specimen of this gang in the person of Edward John Newell : James 

* Report of Secret Committee of 1798, Appendix, xiv, 

f "From the year 1796 to 1800, a set of miscreants, steeped in crime, sunk in de- 
bauchery, prone to violence, and reckless of character, constituted what was called * the 
Major's People.* A number of these wretches were domiciled within the gates of the 
Castle, where there were regular places of entertainment allotted for them, contiguous 
to the viceroy's palace ; for another company of them, a house was allotted opposite 
Ktlmainham gaol, familiarly known to the people by the name of the ' Stag House ; * 
and for one batch of them, who could not be trusted with liberty, there was one of the 
yards of that prison and the surrounding cells assigned to them ; which is still called the 
' Stag Yard.' These persons were considered under the immediate protection of Majors 
Sirr, Swan, and Sandys, and to interfere with them in the course of their duties as spies 
or witnesses was to incur the vengeance of their redoubtable patrons. * • * They 
were known to the people by the name of the ' Battalion of Testimony.' " — Madden's 
** United Irishmen," vol. ii., p. 379. 

The case of Hevey v, Sirr (ibid, p. 380 et seq,) shows how serious a thing it was to 
incur the vengeance of the Major. 

Curran's often-quoted description of the Battalion is not more teirible than true : — 

" I speak of what your own eyes have seen, day after day, during the course of this 
commission, from the box where you are now sitting ; the number of horrid miscreants 
who avowed upon their oaths that they had come from the very seat of government — 
from the Castle, where they had been worked upon by the fear of death and the hopes 
of compensation to give evidence against their fellows ; that the mild and wholesome 
councils of this government are holden over those catacombs of living death, where the 
wretch that is buried a man lies till his heart has time to fester and dissolve, and is then 
dug up a witness. Is this fancy, or is it fact ? Have you not seen him after his resur- 
rection from that tomb, after having been dug out of the region of death and corruption, 
make his appearance upon the table, the living image of life and of death, and the 
supreme arbiter of both ? Have you not marked, when he entered, how the stormy wave 
of the multitude retired at his approach ? Have you not seen how the human heart 
bowed to the supremacy of his power in the undissemoled homage of deferential 
horror ? * ♦ * Informers are worshipped in the temple of justice, even as the devil has 
been worshipped hy pagans and savages : even so, in this wicked country, is the informer 
an object of judicial idolatry ; even so is he soothed by the m^sic of human groans ; even 
so is he placated by the fumes and the blood of human sacrifices." — Speech in defence 
of Peter Finnerty, December 22, 1797. 



O'Brien was another. This man O'Brien had in former years picked up 
a living as a hanger-on to the excise, in the mixed capacity of informer 
and (when he was dnmk) impostor — ^personating the exciseman, and ex- 
torting bribes from deUnquents. He had likewise dabbled in that branch of 
alchemy which supplies recipes for '' making copper money look like silver 
money."* The political events of 1797 opened a wider and more lucra- 
tive field for his talents. In April that year, O'Brien, having got himself 
sworn a United Irishman, gave information to a magistrate of the name of 
Higgins, was introduced by Mr. Uiggins to Lord Fortarlington, and by 
I^ord Fortarlington to Mr. Cooke and other members of the government. 
He was immediately put on full duty ; was enlisted into a dragoon regi- 
ment quartered in Dublin (with a view, it would seem, to watch the 

* The following lample of ui Irish erown witness of 1798 is too characteristic to be 
omitted. We quote from Howell's State Trials : — 

" Q.— Did you e?er give Purcell a recipe ? 

"A.— I did. 

" Q. — Was it for money ? 

« A.— No. 

" a— What was it? 

** A. — It was partly an order, where Hyland, he and I hoped to be together. It 
was a pass-word I gave him to go to Hyland to buy light gold that I knew was 
going to the country. 

" Q. — Did you ever give him any other recipe ? 

" A. — I do not know but I might ; we had many dealings. 

'* Q. — Had you many dealings in recipes ? 

" A. — In recipes ? 

*' Q. — I mean recipes to do a thing ; as, to make a padding, &e. Did you give 
him recipes of that nature ? 

" A. — I do not know, but I might give him recipes to do a great number of things. 

•* Q.— To do a great number of things ! What are they ? 

" A. — Tell me the smallest hint, and I will tell the truth. 

** Q. — Upon that engagement, I will tell you. Did you ever give him a recipe to 
turn silver into gold, or copper into silver 7 

*' A._Ye8, for turning copper into silver. 

" Q. — ^You have kept your word ? 

** A.— I said I would tell everything against myself. 

" Q, — Do you consider that against yourself? 

** A. — I teU you the truth. / gave him a recipe for making copper money like silver 

" Q. — What did you give it him for ? Did he make use of it ? Wan it to protect 
his copper from being changed that you did it ? 

•* A.— He was very oflRcious to make things in a light easy way, without much trou- 
ble, to make his bread light ; but I did it more in fun than profit. 

" Q. — You did not care how much coin he made by it ? 

** A. — I did not care how much coin he made by it ; he might put it upon the 

" Q. — Do you say you do not care how many copper shillings he made ? 

" A.— .1 did not care whether he made use of it or not. 

** Q. — Upon your solemn oath, you say that you did not care how many base shillings 
he made in consequence of the recipe you gaire him ? 

" A. — I did not care how many he told of it, or what he did with it. 

« Q. — Had you never seen it tried ? 

" Au — No, I never saw the recipe I gave him tried ; but I saw others tried. 

" Q.— For making copper look like silver ? 

" A.— To be sure. 

" Q, — Do you recollect whether you gave him half-a-crown,Tipon which that recipe 
was tried ? * 

" A. — ^I never saw it tried ; but I gave him a bad half-crown. I did not give it him 
in payment : I did it more to humbug him than anything else." 

IBISH BEBSmOir. 141 

progress of sedition in the barracks), and at the same time received instruc- 
tions to attend all United Irish meetings and report their proceedings to 
his employers. The instructions were faithfully obeyed. He says— "I 
never went to a meeting that I did not give an account of it to Colonel 
Henniker, Lord Portarlington, and Mr. Secretary Cooke in the Castle." 
The result of his labours was the arrest, in the following month, of Patrick 
Finney and fifteen others. 

The defence of Finney, by Curran and M'Nally, was a masterpiece of 
ability and tact. Their only chance of saving the prisoners was to destroy 
the credit of the witness ; which process, commenced on the man's cross- 
examination, was completed by means of the following ingenious ex- 

" While Mr. Curran was cross-examining him, the prisoner's agent 
** accidentally heard from some of the bystanders that there was a man 
*' residing at the distance of a few miles from Dublin, whose testimony 
*• would place beyond a doubt that O'Brien was perjuring himself in the 
*• answers that he returned. A chaise was immediately dispatched to bring 
*' up this person ; and in the interval it was proposed by Mr. CuiTan 
•* that he, who, as senior, was to have commenced the prisoner's defence, 
*^ should reserve himself for the speech to evidence, and that his colleague 
** should state the case, and contintAe speaking as Umg as he cotddfind a 
^' syllable to say^ so as to give time to the chaise to return before the trial 
*' should be over. The latter, in whose character there was as little of 
**• mental as of personal timidity, accepted the proposal without hesitation ; 
** and, for once belying the maxim that * brevity is the soul of wit,* 
*' produced an oration so skilfully voluminous, that by the time it was 
*' concluded, which was not until his physical strength was utterly ex- 
" hausted, the evening was so far advanced that the court readily 
'* consented to a temporary adjournment, for the purpose of refresh- 
" ment ; and before it resumed its sittings, the material witness for 
" the prisoner had arrived." * 

The result of the exposure which ensued — a rare result in those times — 
was that Finney Was acquitted, and the other fifteen prisoners were dis- 
charged. This first appearance of O'Brien in court was his last — ^in that 
character. As a witness, this " wretch who would dip the Evangelists in 
blood" was no longer producible, even to Irish juries of 1798; but he 
had qualities which made him still of value to the constituted authorities. 
He was retained on duty at the Castle in the capacity of ruffian and bully ; 
and, as one of the Major's People, swaggered about the streets of Dublin in 
the '' sport of man-hunting," and superintended the floggings in the Castle- 
yard. In this man's ultimate fate, even the sturdiest advocate for the aboli- 
tion of death punishment must recognise a moral fitness. In May, 1800, 
O'Brien was tried for a foul and wanton murder (Curran and M'Nally being 
appointed to conduct the prosecution), convicted, and hanged. His exist- 
ence terminated amid loud cheers^ 

From an early period of the year 1798 it became manifest to the United 
Irish leaders, that if anything was ever to be done it must be done soon. 

* " Life of Curran," vol. i., p. 327. 

M*N ally's speech, which quite corresponds with this account of its orig^in, will be 
found in Howell's State Trials. 


The accession of the Defenders, and the Catholic peasantry generally, to the 
ranks of the Union had swelled up the numbers of the confederacy to an 
extent very far beyond what they had ever reached befon?; and the loss 
sustained by the disarming of Ulster, and the general decline of the cause 
in the north, seemed abundantly compensated by the progress made in the 
southern and midland counties. At the same time, the nature and first re- 
sults of this increase of strength were not such as any wise man could regard 
with unmixed complacency. What the Union had gained in numbers it 
had more than lost in character. If the alliance with the Defenders had 
increased its physical force, the increase was at the expense of its morality 
and respectability : Defenders and Whiteboys were Defenders and White- 
boys still, call them what you would. The whole system was rapidly de- 
generating. Local rioting, predatory and vindictive outrage, robbery, and 
murder,* were wasting the force that would presently be needed for the 
work of national independence, bringing disgrace on the very name of 
United Irishmen, alarming the fears and cooling the zeal of the older and 
wiser supporters of the cause, whose aim was still, what it always had been, 
civil and religious liberty and good government. The Secret Committee of 
this year say, in their Report— 

" In the months of February and March, many parts of the provinces 
" of Jjeinster and Munster were actually in • the possession of a murderous 
" banditti. If they did not appear in arms by day, it only rendered their 
" rebellion more difficult to be met and crushed by the king's troops and yeo- 
" manry. Not a night passed without numerous murders. Several dis- 
" tricts in the provinces of Leinster and Munster had been proclaimed, under 
" the powers given to the Lord Lieutenant and Council by the act for pre- 
*' venting insurrections ; but these measures proved ineffectual. Very 
*' many of the loyal inhabitants of the counties of Cork, Limerick, Tip- 
" perary, Kilkenny, Carlow, King's County, Queen's County, Kildare, and 
" Wicklow were, in the course of one month, stripped of their arms, and in 
" many places obliged to fly for shelter into the garrison towns : and, as 
" one instance among many of the daring lengths to which the conspirators 
" at this time had proceeded, your committee think it necessary to state 
" that, in open day, eight hundred insurgents, principally mounted, invested 
" the town of Cahir, in the county of Tipperary, held possession of it until 
" they had made a regular search through every house, and carried off in tri- 
" umph all the arms and ammunition they could find.'* 

It was plain that this could not be suffered to go on, without infinite peril 
to the ultimate success, and even to the existence of the Society of United Irish- 
men. These unruly energies must be regulated — these scattered forces must 
be combined and concentrated : the plan for a general insurrection must be 
matured and effectuated without loss of time — or else these aimless, profit- 

* " Towards the end of February the country became a scene of riot, robbery, and 
assassination, night and day ; nor were the United Irishmen the only actors in these 
disgraceful scenes. * * * Every man fortified his house ; all windows within five- 
and-tweuty or thirty feet from the ground were boarded or bricked up, with mere loop- 
holes left to fire or look through. Every gentleman went about completely armed. The 
few — the very few — who did not use these precautions, and who nevei theless passed in 
safety, became suspected, and suspicion was the signal for persecution." — " Life of Thomas 
Reynolds," by his Son, vol. i., p. 216. 


less, partial insurrections would ruin the thing altogether. The vigilance 
and activity of the government, too, had increased ; and the Union was 
daily losing ground in the esteem and sympathy of all who counted govern- 
ment of any sort preferable to anarchy. Accordingly, it was determined by 
the leaders to make instant preparations for the final and crowning effort. 
With the view of being ready, either to co-operate with the French in the 
event of their arrival, or to act, in case of need, independently of foreign 
aid, a Military Committee was appointed (in February) by the Executive 
Directory, with instructions to bring the entire force of the Union into 
readiness for immediate action. The following document (given in the 
the Report of the Secret Committee of 1798) shows the temper, purposes, 
and estimated force of the Union at this period :— - 

" National Committee, February 26th, 1798. 

" Resolved — That our thanks be returned to the several colonels for 
** their effectual exertions in embodying and arming their several regi- 
** ments. 

" Resolved — That two delegates be sent into Connaught by the Ulster 
** Provincial, to organise that province. 

" Resolved — That we reUlpay no attention whatever to any attempt 
** that may he made hy either House of Parliament to divert the public 
*' mind from the grand object which we have in view, as nothing short of 
** the complete emancipation of our country will satisfy us. 

" Resolved — That the Executive do tsie such steps immediately as will 
•' tend most expeditiously to bring about a union of the four provinces, 
*' three only having as yet come forward. 

" Resolved — That the counties of Carlow, Meath, Wicklow, Derry, 
•' Down, and Antrim deserve well of their country for their manly offer of 
" emancipating her directly ; but that they are requested to bear the 
'' shackles of tyranny a Httle longer, until the whole kingdom shall be in 
" such a state of organisation as will, by their joint co-operation, effect 
" without loss that desirable point, which is hourly drawing to a crisis." 

This paper of February 26th likewise contains an estimate of the 
** armed men" belonging to the Union. It gives to Ulster 110,990 men, 
to Munster 100,634 ; with returns from Kildare, Wicklow, Dublin county, 
Dublin city. King's County, Queen's County, Carlow, Klilkenny, and 
Meath— making a total of 279,698. 

At the same time " detailed military instructions" were issued to the 
Adjutant-Generals of the Union. They were ordered to make monthly 
returns on the number, strength and arms of the regiments, and the qualifi- 
cations of their officers, stating who had been in the army and had seen 
actual service ; on the number of mills in their counties, and the average 
quantity of com in them, summer and winter ; on the breadth and condi- 
tion of the roads, depth of the rivers, height of their banks, situation of 
bridges and fords ; the best positions to intercept convoys ; what number of 
towns and villages in each county, and how many horse and foot could be 
quartered in them; who the best patriots were, and best fitted, by intelli- 
gence and honesty, to be employed as commissaries ; to communicate to 
the Executive every change of quarters of the government forces, the si- 
tuation, nature, and strength of government depots of ammunition, arms, 
and money ; and to be ready to act immediately on the arrival of the 

144 filSTOBT or THS 

French, bringing with them all they could of cars, draught-horses, harness, 
and horses to mount cayahy, with three days* forage."* 

* Dr. Madden gives, apparently on good authority, the following memorandum of a 
conversation between Lord Edward Fitzgerald and " one who possessed his entire con- 
fidence, who communicated with him on the subject of the contemplated rising imme- 
diately before its intended outbreak, and who fruitlessly endeavoured to dissuade him 
from it." It is a valuable illustrative supplement to the official documents above quoted : — 
" The person in question met Lord Fitzgerald by appointment at the Shakespeare Gal- 
lery, Exchequer-street, about one month before the arrests in March, to confer with the 
delegates from the different counties respecting the projected rising. After Lord Edward 
had received the different reports of the cumber of men re^y for the field in the different 
counties, he called on the gentleman above referred to for his opinion. Lord Edward said, 
* he deeply regretted hij friend should have withdrawn himself so lorn; from any active 
interference in the business of the Union ; if he unfortunately persisted in so doing, the 
friends of the Union might be led to imagine he had deserted them in the hour of need ; 
that he. Lord Fitzgerald, had determined on an tmrnediate and general rising of the people, 
their impatience for which was no longer to be restrained, twr, with advantage to the cause, 
to be resisted.* * My lord,' was the reply, * I am not a person to desert a cause in 
which I have embarked. I knew the danger of it when I joined it: were those dangers 
only for myself, or the friends about me, I am not the man to be deterred by the con- 
sideration of what may happen to myself or them. We might fall, but the cause might 
not fail; but when I know the step that you are taking will involve that cause in the 
greatest difficulties, my fears are great — I tremble for the result. My lord, all the services 
that you or your noble house have ever rendered to the country, or ever can render to it, 
will never make amends to the people for the misery and wretchedness the failure of your pre- 
sent plans will cause them.' ' I tell you,' replied Lord Edward impetuously, * the chances 
of success are greatly in favour of our attempt. Examine these returns. Here are returns 
which show that one hundred thousand armed men may be counted on to Uike the field.' 
' My lord,' replied his friend, ' it is one thing to have a hundred thousand men on paper, and 
another in thejield, A hundred thousand men on paper will not furnish fifty thousand 
men in array. I, for one, am enrolled amongst the number ; but 1 candidly tell you, you 
will not find me in your ranks. You know for what objects we joined this Union, and 
what means we reckoned on for carrying them into effect. Fifteen thousand Frenchmen 
were considered essential to our undertaking. If they were so at that time, still more 
BO are they now, when our warlike aspect has caused the government to pour troops into 
the country.' * What ! ' said Lord Edward, ' would you attempt nothing without these 
fifteen thousand men — would you not be satisfied with ten thousand ? ' *l would my 
lord,' replied his friend, if the aid of the fifteen could not be procured.' 

" * But, continued Lord Edward, * if even the ten could not be got, what would you 
do then?' 
" * I would then accept of five, my lord,' was the reply. 

** 'But,' said Lord Edward, fixing his eyes with great earnestness on him, 'we can* 
not get five thousand ; and with respect to the larger force we originally wished for, 
had we succeeded, with so large a body of French troops, we might have found it diffi- 
cult enough to get rid of our allies. I tell you, we cannot get even the five thousand 
you speak of, and when you know that we cannot, will you desert our cause ?' The eyes 
of the delegates were turned on the person thus addressed. He felt that Lord Edward had 
put the matter in such a light before those present, that he would have been branded as 
a traitor if he abandoned the cause while there was a ray of hope for its success. 

" * My Lord,' said he, * If five thousand men could not be obtained, I would seek 
the assistance of a sufficient number of French officers to head our people, and with 
three hundred of these, perhaps we might be justified in making an effort for indepen- 
dence, but not without them. What military men have we of our own, to lead our un- 
fortunate people into action against a disciplined army ?' 

" Lord Edward ridiculed the idea of there being any thing like discipline at that time in 
the English army. ' Besides, the numbers,' he said, * of the United Irishmen would 
more than counterbalance any superiority in the discipline of their enemies.' 

" * My lord,* said bis friend, * we must not be deceived ; they are disciplined, and our 
people are not. If the latter are repulsed and broken, who is to re-form their lines. Once 
thrown into disorder, the greater their numbers, the greater will be the havoc made 
amongst them.' 


All men and parties in Ireland were now hurrying forward to the last, 
worst extremities. Peace, law, and order were no longer extant, even in 
pretence and make-believe. If United Irishmen were becoming demoralised 
into violence and outrage, they were not worse than their rulers, and the 
agents whcm those rulers licensed and indulged. Under Lord Carhamp- 
ton's regime the army and yeomanry had come to be a " banditti," to the 
full as *^ murderous *' as any of the peasant and popish United Irishmen 
reported against by Secret Committees. That nobleman, on rehnquishing 
the command (November, 1797), left the troops in such a state of " licen- 
tiousness," that his successor, the gallant and humane Abercromby, declared 
they were ''^formidable to every one hut the enemy''* And there was 
no redress to be had for the misdoings of military licentiousness: the 
legislature itself was in a state of licentiousness equally formidable. In 
February this year, one effort more was made by Earl Moira to check the 
system of torture, house-burning, and peasant-shooting. He repeated in 
the Irish House of Lords the statements which he had already made in the 
British legislature, with the same prayer for inquiry, and the same proffer 
of evidence. The result was the same in the one parliament as in the other, 
though with a characteristic difference in the mode of the refusal. In Eng- 
land, it had been deemed decorous to deny that such abominations existed : 
in Ireland, they were more than half confessed and approved. A Lord 
Glentworth '* did not justify the burnings mentioned by the noble earl, hut 
€U the same time he thought example necessary ;" — ^and Lord Chancellor 
Clare (Fitzgibbon) argued, on the subject of the torture, '^ that th^re were 
certain cases which justified severity^ and in which it hecame mercy ; 
and he would mbmiiwhether the conseqtiencespromdedagainst might not 
have heen more terrible than the sufferings of the traitor by the picket J"\ 
With such a legislature tolerating and indulging such an executive, who 

" Lord Edward said, * without risking a general engagement, he would be able to get 
possession of Dublin.' 

" * Suppose you did, my lord,* wa« the reply, * the possession of the capital would not 
insure success ; and even when you had taken the city, if the citizens asked to see the 
army of their brave deliverers, which might be encamped in the Phcenix-park, the 
citizens would naturally expect to see some military evolutions performed, some sort of 
military array exhibited on such an occasion. Who would there be, my lord, to put 
the people through these evolutions ? What officers have you to teach them one mili- 
tary manoeuvre ; and if they were suddenly attacked by an army in the rear, what leader 
accustomed to the field have you to bring them with any advantage to the attack ? You, 
my lord, are the only military man amongst us, but you cannot be everywhere you are 
required ; and the misfortune is, you delegate your authority to those whom you think 
are like yourself; but they are not like you: w e have no such persons amongst us.' 

The delegates here assented to the justice of these remarks, declaring that the proposal 
for the aid of the French officers was a reasonable one ; and they were proceeding to re- 
mocstrate, when Lord Edward impatiently reminded them that they had tu> assistance to 
expect fronx France, atid that consequently the detennination had been cotne to, to prepare the 
country for an immediate rising" 

♦ "General Orders. " Dublin, Febiuary 26, 1798. 

" The very disgraceful frequency of courts- martial, and the many complaints of ir- 
regularities in the conduct of the troops in this kingdom, having too unfortunately 
proved the army to be in a state of licentiousness which must reader it formidable to 
every oue but the enemy, the Commander-in-Chief thinks it necessary," &c. 

Unable to abate the enormities against which he protested. Sir Ralph Abercromby 
shortly afterwards resigned in disgust, and was succeeded by General Lake. 

f One case of halfJianginy he met by assuring the house, that nothing more vas done 
than tying the rope about the man's neck to induce him to confess ! 



will wonder that ther^ was a National Committee issuing ^ detailed miHtary 
instructions to Adjutant-Generals." 

Things were now, as the National Ccnnmittee correctly resolved, '* hourly 
drawing to a crisis." Both parties stood finally committed ; the goyem- 
ment to coercion hy fire, sword, and whip— -the United Irishmen, to im- 
mediate and general insurrection, with or without French aid. Meanwhile 
events occurred, equally unanticipated on either side, which postponed the 
crisis some weeks heyond the period originally intended, and which ma- 
terially altered the relative position of the parties, throwing tiie halance 
of power decidedly, and once for all, in favour of the government. This 
change in the aspect of affairs was the work of a man whose name must 
always occupy a prominent place in the history of 1798, as his character 
and motives will prohahly fong continue to he a subject of controversy with 
historians— Thomas Retxolbs. Of this person^s connexion— first with 
the United Irishmen, and afterwards with the government — ^the following 
is the best account which we have been able to collect. 

Thomas Reynolds, originally a large silk-manufacturer in Dublin, at this 
period recentiy settled at Kilkea Castie, in the county of Kildare, an ancient 
baronial seat of the Fitzgeralds, held on perpetual lease from the Duke of 
Leinster (to whose family he was related on his mother's side), had begun his 
political Ufe, at the age of 2 1 , as a member of the Catholic Convention 
of 1792. Being attached to the cause of Catholic emancipation and 
religious equality, both by family connexion and personal conviction, he 
afterwards joined the Society of United Irishmen, anid took the oath or test 
at the hands of Oliver Bond, in DubHn,in January or February, 1797. 
He was first a member of one of the lower societies, afterwards of a 
baronial committee. For some two or three months he attended the 
meetings pretty regularly ; after which, occupied with his purchase of 
Kilkea Castle, and the winding-up of his affairs in Dublin, he withdrew 
for a while from politics, and ceased to take any part in the affairs of the 
society. So matters stood until November, in the course of which 
month Lord Edward Fitzgerald applied to Reynolds, begging him to act 
in his stead as colonel for the barony of Kilkea and Moone, alleging, as a 
reason, that his own activity had drawn upon him the suspicions of govern- 
ment, and that he wished to withdraw himself for a time. Reynolds at 
first objected ; but Lord Edward was urgent (it was felt, probably, that 
Reynolds's castie of Kilkea and his extensive influence among the Catholics 
might both be serviceable in the approaching struggle), and at length the 
request was acceded to. On re-joining the Union, and entering on the 
duties of his colonelcy, Reynolds found that more was expected of him than 
he had undertaken to perform. It was intended that he should hold a civil 
as well as a military office, and he was urged to take the post of secretary 
or treasurer for the county. He chose the latter, as likely to be the less 
troublesome of the two, and thus became ex-qfficio a member of the 
committee for the province. 

On the 18th of February, 1798, Reynolds was summoned to a county 
committee-meeting, held at a place called the Nineteen-mile House, about 
half-way between Dublin and Kilkea, to go through the forms of election 
requisite to constitute him a provincial delegate, and so complete his qua- 
lification for attending the provincial committee which was to meet the 
next day. At this county meeting of the 1 8th he met two members of 

IltlSH BESELLlOir, 147 

tbe provincial, of the names of Cummins and Daly, who, after the county 
committee-men had retired, admitted their new associate to the higher 
secrets of the Union, in order to prepare him for taking part in the 
business of the day following. They told him that all was ready for 
an immediate insurrection, which only awaited the arrival of a military 
ftHTce daily expected from France ; and that one of the signals for open 
rebellion, and the first step to be taken to insure its success, would be 
to deprive the government of its principal active leaders, by the seizure — 
if necessary, the assassination— of about eighty individuals, of whose 
names Cummins produced a . list including aU the chief members of the 

Reynolds was startled. It was the first he had heard of such schemes. 
He had been out of the business of the Union for ten months, had never 
before been initiated into the secrets of a provincial committee, and 
the present revelation was altogether new to him. He had taken the 
United Irishmen's oath, and sworn secrecy as to all proceedings under that 
oath ; but the oath spoke only of " brotherhood of affection among Irish- 
men," and " equal, full, and adequate representation of the people," and 
was silent on the subject of insurrection and French invasion. He had 
allowed himself to be persuaded into accepting ofiice in an illegal mili- 
tary organisation which lawyers called treasonable— but the example of 
the old Volunteers had shown that illegal military organisation for poli- 
tical ends did not necessarily mean actual rebellion; an armed demon- 
stration like that of 1782, for obtaining Catholic emancipation and 
parliamentary reform, was not a thing which Irishmen at that day were 
accustomed to deem criminal. But this business of immediate insurrection, 
French invasion, and arrest of the members of the government (whether 
with or without assassination), was far more serious. Reynolds went home 
anxious and alarmed. The next day he stayed away from the provincial 
committee-meeting, sending an excuse for non-attendance. The day after 
that (if we may trust his o^vn statement, reported by a partial biographer), 

• " Life of Thomas Reynolds," by his Son, vol. i., pp. 187-189 ; vol. ii., p. 147. 

That some such list as that above mentioned existed at the period, is highly pro- 
bable; that, " if necessary, the assassination" of the persons named may have been an 
alternative contemplated by some extremely zealous individuals, is not violently impro- 
bable ; and Reynolds's character may be allowed the benefit of the hypothesis. But the 
notion that assassination was ever adopted or sanctioned by the heads of the Union as 
a part of their policy, is distinctly negatived, both by the high character and the solemn 
declaration of members of the then Directory, whose lightest word is evidence. Thomas 
Addis Emmet, in his examination before the Secret Committee of the House of Lords 
(August 10, 1798), in reply to the question, "Was it not intended to cut off, in the 
beginning of the contest, the leaders of the opposition party by a summary mode, such 
as assassination ?" said — 

" I can answer that, while I was of the Executive, there was no such design, but the 
contrary, for we conceived that when one of you lost your lives we lost a hostage, (htr 
mtentioti was tomzeyou cdl^ and keep you as hostages for the conduct of England ; and, after 
the revolution was over, if you could not live under the new government, to send you 
out of the country." 

To the same effect is Dr. Macneven's testimony (Examination, August 7) : — 

" We wished to see liberty established in our country with the least possible expense 
of private happiness, and in such a way that no honest man of either party should have 
cause to regret it." 

The Executive Directory consisted, previously to the 1 2th of March, of Emmet, Mac- 
neven, Arthur O'Connor, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and Oliver Bond. 


he did the first thing which a man of honour and honesty should do in- 
such a case :— 

*' On the 20th of February, my father went to Dublin with my mother. 
'^ A few hours after his arrival he met Mr. Richard M'Gormick, the 
'' same who had acted as CathoHc secretary to the Convention, who told 
^* him that at the provincial meeting on the 19th he had ventured to 
'^ reconunend less violent measures, but that he was quickly silenced ; and 
^* that on the same day, on going to the dinner at which all the members 
*' and many others of Uie association attended, he was so fearfuUy attacked 
'* and abused, that he fled for his life. He assured my father it was 
^^ therefore his determination to realise his property and to quit Ireland, 
" where he was well aware there would now be no safety for him ;— 
^* a resolution which, happily for himself, he immediately put in exe- 
'* cution. * * * My father afterwards, during that day and the next, 
*' saw some of the leaders, to whom he urged all he could against 
" their projects with safety to himself. He had got a kind of procla- 
'' mation which was then in circulation among the United Irishmen, recom- 
'* mending peace, industry, and sobriety, in the name of the Directory. 
*' With this in his hands, he asked why they did not enforce its recom- 
** mendations? He was laughed at. He grew more serious, and 
*•*' threatened to quit them ; when Mr. Samuel Neilson, of Belfast, said, 
'' *• Take care what you do^ Reynolds! — you know too much to stop 
" now. We'll have no half-measure men.' "♦ 

It now became a difficult and anxious question with Reynolds what he 
was to do. Admitted into dangerous confidences whiph he had not sought; 
implicated — unwittingly, reluctantly, yet as it seemed irrevocably — ^in a 
confederacy whose true nature and full extent were now, for the first time, 
disclosed to him ; made the depository of secrets which it were at once 
shameful to betray, and perilous to keep ; afiected, both legally and morally, 
with a guilty knowledge of schemes which he utterly disapproved ; — ^his 
position was one of infinite perplexity and hazard. He coidd not betray 
the conspirators who had trusted him as one of themselves — ^he must not 
allow the conspiracy to go on ; yet how check it, without betrayal ? It 
was as entangled a case of conscience as ever man had to solve. If Rey- 
nolds did not find the true solution, allowance may, perhaps, be made for a 
young man in his twenty-seventh year, affluent, well-connected, a husband 
and a father — surrounded with all the domestic and social circumstances 
that make martyrdom painful. 

Reynolds chose a middle course. He hoped " so to neutralise the plans 
of the United Irishmen, as to stop them without compromising their per- 
sonal safety, and at once to save his country, his friends, and his own 
honour."! About the 25 th of February, having occasion to take a journey 
into the country with a Mr. Cope, a Dublin merchant and an old friend of 

* " Life of Thomas Reynolds," vol. i., p. 197. 

Neilson's yiolence may well be accounted for. He was just released from a serenteen- 
months' imprisonment, without specific charge and without trial, with broken health, 
ruined estate, and exasperated temper. Neilson was not the only wise and good man 
whom oppression had made mad. 

t Ibid., p. 203. 


his family, on a business matter in which they were jointly interested, 
Reynolds was led by Cope to talk of the state of the country. In the 
courae of conversation, Cope (who was a friend of the government, and 
acquainted with some of its members), suspecting the United Irish politics 
of his companion, took the opportunity to represent in strong colours the 
*' horrors of a revolution, the murders and devastation which would take 
place, and shocked*' Reynolds ** extremely." The conversation then took 
the following turn : — 

" I told him / believed I knew a person, who, upon representing all 
** that passed — ^who was not of a sanguinar}' disposition, who did not wish 
*' for murder or bloodshed — would desert the United Irishmen, and, in 
•** order to make amends for any crime he might have committed by joining 
** them, would give to government such information as he was possessed of, 
*' which I did believe was very considerable. Mr. Cope seized upon this, 
'* and immediately said t?iat stick a man would and ought to he placed 
** higher in his country than any man that ever was in it, I told him, 
" that neither honours nor rewards were looked for, or would he ac- 
" cepted of by the man, if he came forward ; but that I would call upon 
'* him in a day or two upon the business. We travelled together the 
*' whole day, from eight o'clock in the morning till six in the 
** evening, and the conversation was principally upon those topics, so that 
** there was a vast deal said. Two or three days after my arrival in town, 
" I called upon Mr. Cope, told him I had seen my friend, and had pre- 
" vailed on him to come forward upon certain conditions; that he had, 
*' I believed, considerable information to give. Mr. Cope misunderstood 
*' me in what I said, and immediately said, ' the man shall have greater 
'* conditions than he can wish for ; ' he said ^ he should have a seat in 
^''parliament, he raised to honours, and have 1,500/. or 2,000/. a year' 
" I told him he misunderstood me, these were not the conditions ; but 
*' I would tell him, and they were these : — ^that he should not be prosecuted 
" himself as a United Irishman upon any account whatever; that he should 
" never be obliged or forced to prosecute any other person as a United 
" Irishman ; and that the channel through which the information came 
" should be kept a secret-^at least, for a time ; and as the person would, 
" immediately upon its being known to the United Irishmen, be murdered, 
** if he remained in this country — and I was sure it would come out in a 
" very short time — ^he would, as soon as he could arrange his affairs, go to 
" England till matters were settled, and would require for that time that 
" any additional expenses he should he at should he defrayed. Mr, 
" Cope then pressed to know what would these be. I said that was 
" impossible to tell ; but, after some conversation, I stated that he should 
•* he allowed to draw upon him for any sum not exceeding 500 guineas, 
" Mr. Cope again pressed considerable rewards, and expressed surprise 
" that they would not be taken ; but when he found I was positive, he 
" then acquiesced." * 

Reynolds then communicated all that he knew respecting the views and 
purposes of the United Irishmen, stating, in particular, that he believed 

* Evidence on Trial of John M'Cann. — See Howell. 


there was to be a meeting at Oliver Bond's house on the 12th of March, 
to make the final arrangements for a general rising ; " but my father was 
careful," says his biographer, " not to name or inculpate any individual." 
The only name mentioned was that of Bond, as the proprietor of the house 
where the meeting was to be held. The affair proceeded as follows : — 

" On the second interview my father was unable to state positively 
" that the meeting was finally fixed for the 12th, nor did he know the 
" precise hour at which it would be held. To enable the government 
*' effectually to stop the* further proceedings of the conspirators, it was 
'^ necessary that they should be made acquainted with those particulars. 
*' My father therefore sought an interview with M'Cann, who refused to give 
" him the information he required until he produced his returns of men and 
*' money fi:X)m the committee for the county of Ealdare, which, as treasurer, 
" he was expected to do. In order to procure these returns, my father went 
'' to Kilkea on the Srd of March, and on the 4th he went to Castle Dermot, 
" where he met his captains ; and having settled the returns with them, 
" he then proceeded to Daly, at Kilcullen, and got them ; and on the 7th 
" he returned to Dublin, and gave them to M*Cann, who promised to call 
" on him on Sunday, the 11th, which he did, when he informed him that 
" the meeting was fixed to take place on the morrow, at the house of 
" Oliver Bond, at ten o'clock in the forenoon. My father then saw Mr. 
*' Cope for the third and last time on this subject, and at that interview 
" merely gave him thope particulars. He decidedly refused to entrust Mr. 
*' Cope with any other name, or any further particulars ; and when the latter 
'^ urged him to make further disclosures, he assured him that the person 
'' who had been in communication with him had gone to England, which at 
" once put an end to all hope of obtaining further particulars through that 
*' channel ; and as for himself, he had made Mr, Cope believe thai he 
*^ was in no other may concerned than as a medium of communication 
*'^ from that third person''* 

♦ " Life of Thomas Reynolds," vol. i., p. 206. 

We have no especial partiality for the character of Mr. Thomas Reynolds, and services 
rendered to a Clare-and-Castlereagh government are not of a kind to awaken any very 
enthusiastic admiration. Still, truth is truth ; and, as the name and memory of this man 
have heen loaded with an obloquy which he does not seem to us to have deserved, we 
wish that his case should at least have a fair re-hearing. Premising that Reynolds is to 
be judged, notby the speeches of Curran at the bar and Burdett in the House of Commons, 
nor by the "supposes" and " undoubtedlys " of Mr. Moore's "Life of Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald," nor by the hereditary antipathies which the name of the Informer arouses in 
the heart of Irish patriotism, but only by the facts of his life — we here throw to- 
gether the more material of these, from the date of his last communication with Cope 
to that of his first appearance in court as a crown witness. Most of the following 
statements will be found (variously coloured) in the pages of writers decidedly hostile 
to Reynolds — Dr. Madden, in particular. The authority of his son, when unsupported, 
has been accepted with the caution which the nature of the case suggests. 

On the 11th of March (the day before the arrests) Reynolds called on Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald, and showed him a paper containing secret orders to a corps of yeomanry, of 
a tenor which indicated that government was on the alert to meet and put down some 
impending commotion. The motive alleged for this visit is, that Reynolds wished, 
without exciting suspicion against himself, to deter Lord Edward from attending the 
meeting at Bond's the next day. Such was the result. His lordship was greatly agi- 
tated, stayed away from the meeting, and escaped arrest during more than two months 
from that time. 


This was. by far the most important int^igence the government had as 
yet received. They were now in a position, by arresting the leaders and 
active managers of the Union, to confound their designs, and compel them 

On the 14th and 15th of March, Reynolds called, by desire, on Lord Edward Fitz- 
gerald, at his place of refuge in Aungier -street, discussed with his lordship plans of con- 
cealment and escape, declined receiving him at Kilkea Castle, on the ground that the 
connection of the families would make it an unsafe retreat ; and, on Lord Edward stat- 
ing at their first meeting that he had neither arms nor money, brought him, at the second, 
a case of pistols and 50 guineas. Mr. Moore says, "That Reynolds promptly gave in- 
formation to his employers of the place and circumstances of this interview, there can 
hardly be any doubt." There is no doubt that Lord Edward Fitzgerald xemalned at 
large for upwards of two months from the date of this interview; and on the 11th of 
May it was found necessary to offer a thousand pounds reward for his apprehension. 
The account of the secret-service money contains the following item — " 1798, June 20. 
F. H., Discovery of L. E. F., £1,000." 

On the 18th of March, Reynolds attended a county meeting of United Irishmen, on 
the Gurragh of Kildare. A member proposed that all the officers of county committees 
should be changed, as it was supposed that one of these must have furnished government 
with the information that led to the arrests of the 12th. Reynolds seconded the proposi- 
tion, and was voted out of office with the rest. The question ** Who is the traitor ?*' was 
angrily discussed ; pointed insinuations were directed against Reynolds. He said, or 
swore, that he was innocent. On the 20th, he met some of his captains at Athy fair, 
and informed them of the determination of the county committee to change its officers. 
From that moment he never attended another meeting of United Irishmen. 

On Sunday, the 25th of March, Reynolds attended the Catholic chapel of Mageny 
Bridge; after mass, ascended the steps of the altar, and, by permission of the priest, 
harangued the congregation, inveighing in strong terms against the disturbers of the 
public peace, and declaring tiiat he would aid in bringing robbers and murderers to jus- 
tice. His Imrangue had considerable effiect, and some property recently plundered from 
a Captain Beaver was restored that night. 

Reynolds was now preparing to leave the country — ^but it was not in his power. 
His former associates were bent on the destruction of the man whom they suspected of 
having betrayed them ; and the government, ignorant that he was the source of the in- 
telligence communicated through Cope, persecuted him mercilessly, as a man known to 
lie of liberal politics, proved to possess influence with the Catholic peasantry, reputed to 
be a leader among the United Irishmen, and suspected as a relation of the Fitzgeralds* 
On the 20th of April, for which day he had invited a party of friends to a farewell dinner, 
Colonel Campbell, commander of the Athy district, sent a troop of the 9th Dragoons and a 
company of the Cork Sd^tia — in. all, 200 men and 86 horses — to live at Kilkea Castle at 
free quarters. They tore up the floors, tore down the wainscots and ceilings, and broke 
into the walls, in search of arms and ammunition ; flogged the old steward till he was 
insensible, to make him confess where they were concealed; hacked the mahogany 
tables, smashed the pier glasses, demolished the pianofortes, made targets of the paint- 
ings, and inundated seventy acres of land by opening the sluices of a river. At the 
end of nine days they left the castle a wreck, the stone walls excepted. It remained an 
uninhabitable ruin for years. 

Between the middle of April and the 3rd of May, Reynolds had three narrow escapes 
from assassination at the hands of the United Irishmen. 

On the the 5th of May, flve of his captains lodged informations before Colonel Camp- 
bell against Reynolds, as a colonel in their system. He was arrested at Kilkea by a 
party of dragoons, and taken to Athy, to be tried at head quarters by martial law. From 
the short and sharp fate then usually consequent on martial-law trials he saved himself 
with great difficulty, by making representations of his case to Colonel Campbell which 
induced that officer to stay proceedings for a few hours, and send to Dublin for instruc- 
tions. A note from Reynolds to Mr. Cope was permitted to accompany the colonel's 
dispatch. Cope instantly repaired to the Castle, and informed the Secretary, for the 
first time, that it was Reynolds who had given the information that led to the arrests of 
the 12th of March. The consequence was an order to Colonel Campbell to send his prisoner 
to Dublin, under a strong military escort. The apologies and regrets of the Castle 
authorities may be imagined. 

The day after his arrival at Dublin Castle as a state prisoner Reynolds consented to 


to act either a{ a disadvantage or not at all. The appointment for Monday, 
the 12th of March, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, was punctually kept by 
other persons than those regularly invited. Oliver Bond and thirteen dele- 
gates, forming the Leinster Provincial Committee, were taken, with all their 
papers, at Bond's house ; and on the same day, Emmet and Macneven, with 
others of the leaders, were arrested at their own houses, brought to the 
Castle for examination, and committed to Newgate on charges of high 
treason. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 
who for the present eluded the vigilance of the authorities. 

This was a crushing blow. Everything was done to retrieve it that 
zeal and courage could do— but the case was, in the nature of it, desperate. 
The new Directory had all the energy, but they lacked the working 
ability and experience of their predecessors. The chief management of the 
affairs of the Union was undertaken at this crisis by John Sheabes, an 
earnest, ardent enthusiast-^a man of books rather than of action and the 
world— of whom Barrington says, more truly than good-naturedly, that " he 
was well-educated, but mistook the phrases of republicanism for a power 
of writing in its defence, and of being a leader in its cause." John Sheares, 
in concert with Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who still remained secreted in 
and about Dublin, strained every nerve to re-organise and re-animate the 
confederacy : but neither of them was a good conspirator. The one was 
only a student, and the other only a soldier ; and it was not a time now 
either for the phrases of republicanism or for the open-hearted frank- 
ness of military gallantry. What shall we think of the blind, mad 
confidence which, at such a crisis, could hope to shake a Clare-and- 
Castlereagh tyranny by eloquence like the following : — 

" Yet has this, their last treason, like all their former ones, turned 
** with an overwhelming recoil upon themselves. On the memorable day 
" which saw so many virtuous and respectable citizens of Dublin dragged 
" ignominiously to prison, by arbitrary mandates unsupported by informa- 
" tion on oath, confusion and trepidation marked the conduct of the op- 
appear in court as crown witnees, on condition that his grand&ther, Thomas Fitzgerald, 
of Kilmead, should not be molested for his conduct or opinions ; that his uncle, Captaui 
Fitzgerald, of Geralditie, should be set at liberty.; that he and his family should be pro- 
tected from the personal violence of the United Irishmen ; and that no person who might 
he convicted upon his evidence should be executed^ provided he tDould, after conviction^ make a 
full disclosure of all he knew relative to the plans of the United Irishmen, and consent to 
banish himself. 

With the remainder of Reynolds's life we have here no concern. The government 
pensioned and employed him (in foreign consulships) , and gave him £5,dO0 of the 
secret-service money : but it is not clear that he was a richer man after 1798 than he 
had been before. Of his legally-assessed claim for losses and injuries, he never received 
eo nomine^ one shilling. In comfort, status, reputation, and everything else dear to man, 
he was an infinite lo8er— and he felt the loss. 

On the whole, if Thomas Reynolds was not a very high-minded man, neither was he 
a monster of depravity. *' Spy and informer*' is his usual cognomen. The designation 
is singularly inappropriate. He was not a " spy," in any sense of the word : he did 
not simulate zeal in order to win confidence and make a market of the secrets entrusted 
to him — from the hour that he resolved to frustrate the plans of his associates he began 
to withdraw from their society. Nor was he, in the worst sense of the word, an " in- 
former:*' his informations were without msdice, and without falsehood. He failed — 
where not one man in a million could have succeeded — ^in the attempt to resume that 
neutrality between oppression and rebellion which he had once relinquished, to save a 
wicked government without wounding and exasperating a wronged people. 


** pressors ; while the unclouded serenity, the c^alm, unassuming fortitude of 
** conscious innocence, beamed from the countenance of the oppressed. 
•' With mingled horror and contempt the capital saw the Prime-Miscreant^ 
*^ THE KoBESFiEBBE OF Ibeland, the nefarious author and apologist of 
*' atrocities without name and number, appalled by the mere gaze of Irish 
'^ eyes, and shaking in a paroxysm of rage and terror while the murderous 
^' weapon trembled in his palsied hand, the strong thirst of blood struggling 
*' in vain with the still stronger impulses of conscious guilt and native 
'* cowardice. 

" For us, the keen but momentary anxiety, occasioned by the situation 
** of our invaluable friends, subsided, on learning all the circumstances of 
*' the case, into a calm tranquillity, a consoling conviction of mind that they 
'' are as safe as innocence can make men now ; and to these sentiments 
*' were quickly added a redoubled energy, a tenfold activity of exertion, 
** which has already produced the happiest ejBTects. The organisation of 
*' the capital is perfect''* 

The Leinster Committee was, in fact, speedily re-constituted, so far as 
'* organisation" went; and again we find the hearts of the patriots cheered 
vnth visions of immediate insurrection and French aid. At a meeting of 
the Ulster Provincial Committee (March 25th) — 

'' It was referred to the Leinster delegate to give the reports. 
^^ He accordingly said, he na>s happy to tell them the Leinster Promn- 
" cial Committee was perfectly recovered from the shock .• they were 
'* only four days from the time they were taken till they had the whole 
^' province in a complete state of organisation. The government had also 
" taken three of the Executive, but there were three appointed in their 
** places that very evening after they were taken. He said, the Leinster 
^* Executive had delegated him to wait on us to answer some questions 
** which he read from a paper. They were to the following effect: — The 
** number of the United Irishmen who would act if called upon; the num- 
*' ber of arms ; the number of military and militia, and how many good and 
** bad ; with a recommendation for the people to put themselves immediately 
*^ into as good a state of organisation as possible ; for that they had a de^ 
** legate arrived with positive assurances that the French would com- 
** mence embarkation on the first of April, and that they would he all 
*'' on board by the middle of the month, and ready to sail the first op- 
** portunity after.''] 

And again, on the first of April, we see them as patiently as ever believing 
without evidence, and hoping against hope :— 

*' A delegate from Dublin said, that the Leinster Executive had re- 
*' ceived a letter from Bartholomew Teeling, who is one of our delegates 
" in France, stating that the French troops would most certainly be on 
*' board by the middle of this month. He said the troops from Brest and 
*' that neighbourhood were determined to try to evade the British fleet, 
" and to land in Ireland. Of course, the British fleet would follow them 
** round, and while thus drawn off, all the other troops embarked at other 

* Address of John Sheares to the People of Ireland, 17 th of March, 
t Report of the Secret Committee of 1798, Appendix ziv. 



^^ ports would make a descent on England, Whatever might result 
'' from this attempt, it was the fixed determination of the National Com- 
'' mittee, in case tiie French should be frustrated, that we should of our- 
'' selves make a rising. He said that the citizens of Dublin, with the 
^ assistance of the army, could seize the capital at any moment. He in- 
'^ formed them that the leaders in Leinst^ were particularly active in or- 
'^ ganising the military committees, as were also some of our Ulster friends 
*' who are at present there."* 

Meanwhile, to the phrases of republicanism, and the organisation of mili- 
tary committees, the government opposed not phrases but bayonets, not or- 
ganisation but action — prompt, hard, and cruel. The "wish that the people 
would rebel" had now matured itself into a maxim of policy, a deliberate 
ministerial purpose. They were determined that the people should rebel, 
before the arrival of a French force rendered rebellion really formidable. 
On the 30th of March, the kingdom was officially declared to be in state of 
insurrection, by the following 



" Whereas a traitorous conspiracy existing within this kingdom, for 
" the subversion of the authority of hisJMajesty and the parliament, and 
" for the destruction of the established constitution and government, hath 
" considerably extended itself, and hath broken out into acts of open violence 
^^ and rebellion: 

" We have, therefore, by and with the advice of his Majesty's Privy 
" Council, issued the most direct and positive orders to the officers cora- 
" manding his Majesty's forces to employ them with the utmost mgour 
" and decision for the immediate suppression thereof and also to 
'* recover the arms which have been traitorously forced from his Majesty's 
" peaceable and loyal subjects, and to disarm the rebels, and all persons 
" disaffected to his Majesty's government, by the most summary and 
" effectual measures. 

** Giren at the council-chamber in Dublin, the 30th day of March, 1798. 

" Clare, &c. &c. &c." 

This proclamation was immediately followed up, in many counties, by 
military notices to the inhabitants, threatening them that, unless all concealed 
arms and ammunition were given up within ten days, '* the troops should 
be quartered in large bodies to live at fbee quabtebs among them, 
and other very severe means would be used to enforce obedience:' 

In attributmg to the government at this period a deliberate policy of ex- 
asperation, a determination to get up rebellion for the sake of putting it 
down, we are simply adopting their own interpretation of their own acts. 
The horrible imputation is not one of inference ; it is not the calumnious 
invention of disappointed and baffled sedition ; it stands on the evidence of 
their own confession — their own boast, rather— coolly published to the 
world some months later. The Secret Committee say, in their Report 
(August, 1798) — 

" It appears, from a variety of evidence laid before your committee, 

♦ Report of the Secret Committee of 1798, Appendix xiv. 


^' that the rebellion would not have broken out so soon as it did, had it 
^' not been for the well-timed measures adopted by government, sub- 
'* sequent to the proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant and council bearing 
^* date the 30th of March, 1798 ; as it is notorious that in many counties 
" the effect of those measures was such, in dissolving the Union, and in 
** obliging the people to surrender their arms, that it became evident to the 
** generaUty of their leaders they had no other alternative but to rise at 
" once or to abandon their purpose. * * * From the vigorous and 
^^ summary expedients resorted to by government, and the consequent 
" exertions of the military, the leaders found themselves reduced to the 
*' alternative of immediate insurrection, or of being deprived of the 
^^ means on which they relied for effecting their purpose ; and to this 
** cause is exclusively to be attributed that premature and desperate ef- 
" fort, the rashness of which has so evidently facilitated its suppression."* 

The " well-timed measures," the " vigorous and summary expedients," 
consisted in the renewal, extension, and aggravation of all the magisterial 
and military atrocities of previous years — the floggings, the picketings, the 
half-hangings, the house-bumuigs, the free quarters (which included all 
the rest) — with such additions and improvements as a devilish ingenuity 
could devise. 

" The army," says an eye-witness and sufferer, " now distributed 
" through the country in free quarters, gave loose to all the excesses of 
" which a licentious soldiery are capable ; ' formidable,* in the language 
^' of the gallant Abercromby, ' to all but the enemy.* From the humble 
" cot to the stately mansion, no pioperty, no person was secure. Num- 
*' bers perished under the lash ; many were strangled in the fruitless at- 
*' tempt of extorting confessions ; and hundreds were shot at their peaceful 
^' avocations, in the very bosom of their families, for the wanton amuse- 
" ment of a brutal soldiery. The torture of the pitch-cap was a subject of 
*'*' amusement both to officers and men, and the agonies of the unfortunate 
** victim, writhing under the blaze of the combustible material, were in- 
'* creased by the yells of the soldiery and the pricking of their bayonets, 
'' imtil his sufferings were oflen terminated by death. 

" The torture practised in those days of Ireland's misery has not been 
*' equalled in the annals of the most barbarous nation, and the world has 
" been astonished, at the close of the eighteenth century, with acts which 
" the eye views with horror, and the heart sickens to record. Torture 
^' was resorted to, not only on the most trivial, but groundless occasions. 
*' It was inflicted without mercy on every age and every condition : the 
" child, to betray the safety of the parent ; the wife, the partner of her 
'' conjugal affection ; and the iriend and brother have expired under the 
" lash, when the generous heart scorned to betray the defenceless brother 
*' or friend. The barbarous system of torture practised at Beresford's 
" Riding House, Sandy's Provost, the old Custom House, and other depots 
" of human misery in the capital, under the very eye of the executive, 
" makes the blood recoil with horror, while we blush for the depravity of 
^^ man under the execrable feelings of his perverted nature. In the centre 

* In Macneven's examination before the Committee (August 7th), we find the follow- 
ing Bignificant question : — 

Lord Castlereagh — " You acknowledge the Union would have become stronger, hut 
for the means taken to make it explode V* 


** of the city, the heart-rending exhibition was presented of a human 
*' being, endowed with all the faculties of a rational soul, rushing from the 
'* infernal depot of torture and death ; his person besmeared with a bum- 
*' ing preparation of turpentine and pitch, plunging in his distraction into 
** the Liffey, and terminating at once his sufferings .and his life. 

'' * You are come too late,' exclaimed a young man to those unfeeling 
" monsters ; * I am now beyond your power. My information was feigned, 
*' but it afforded me a moment's respite ; I knew you would discover the 
^' artifice, I knew the fate that awaited me, but I have robbed you of your 
^' victim. Heaven is more merciful than you'— -and he expired. This 
" melancholy transaction occurred in the town of Drogheda, in the spring 
" of 1798. The unhappy victim was a young man of delicate ftame; 
^* he had been sentenced to 500 lashes, and received a portion of 
*' them with firmness ; but, dreading lest bodily suffering might subdue the 
" fortitude of his mind, he requested that the remainder should be sus- 
*' pended, and his information taken. Being liberated from the triangles, 
'* he directed his executioners to a certain garden, where he informed them 
" arms were concealed. In their absence he deliberately cut his throat. 
" The arms not being discovered, for none were there, the disappointed 
*' and irritated party hastened back to inflict the remainder of the punish- 
" ment ; — he only lived to pronounce the words which I have reported. 

*' About the same period, and in the same populous town, the unfor- 
** tunate Bergan was tortured to death. He was an honest, upright citizen, 
*' and a man of unimpeachable moral conduct. He was seized on by those 
'^ vampires, and in the most public street stripped of his clothes, placed in 
'^ a horizontal position on a cart, and torn with the cat-o-nine-tails long 
" after the vital spark was extinct. The alleged pretence for the perpetra- 
*' tion of this horrid outrage was, that a small gold ring had been discovered 
" on his finger, bearing a national device, the * shamrock,' of his unfor- 
" tunate country."* 

* Tecling'8 " Personal Narrative," pp. 132-135. 

" Various other violent acts," says Plowden, " were committed ; go far as to cut away 
pieces of men's ears, even sometimes the whole ear, or a part of the nose." 

In all these atrocities of the troops ** formidable to every one but the enemy," the 
Orange yeomanry and militia were the foremost actors. 

But we need not crowd our pages with these sickening abominations, the public 
acts and proclamations of the government suggest all the rest. We doubt whether the 
world has yet seen more than one government capable of the following piece of cold- 
blooded insolence and cruelty : — 

** Whbrbas it has been reported to Lieutenant-General Sir James Stuart, that in seme 
parts of the county, where it has been necessary to place troops at firee-quarters for the 
restoration of public tranquillity ^ that general subscriptions of money have been entered 
into by the inhabitants, to purchase provisions for the troops, by which means the end 
proposed of making the burthen fall as much as possible on the guilty is entirely 
defeated, by making it fall in a light proportion on the whole, and thereby easing and 
protecting the guilty; it has been thought proper to direct, that wherever the practice 
has been adopted, or shall be attempted, the general officers commanding divisions of the 
southern district shall immediately double^ triple^ and quadruple the number of soldiers so 
stationed^ and shall send out regular foraging parties, to provide provisions for the troops, 
in the quantities mentioned in the former notice, bearing datethe 27 th day of April, 1798; 
and that they shall move them from station to station through the district or barony, 
until all arms are surrendered and tranquillity be perfectly restored, and until it is reported 
to the general officers, by the gentlemen holding landed property and those who are employed 
in collecting the public revenues and tithes, that ALL RENTS, TAXBS, AND TITHB8 ABE* 

" Adjutant-General's Office, Cork, May 7, 1798." 


" Pray^ Mr. Emmets what catLsed the late insurrection ? " asked 
Lord Chancellor Clare, when all the mischief was done. The answer 
was — '* The free-quarters^ hotise-burnings^ tortures ^ and military 
executions in the counties of Kildare^ Carlow^ and Wickhw" 
0*Connor and Macneven gave the same answer to the same question. 

The " well-timed measures" were successful. The people, goaded be- 
yond all endurance by the barbarities of military licence, and hopeless of 
the long-promised and long-deferred succours from France, would bear no 
further delay : they would have their insurrection at once, or not at all. 
The thing had draped on month after month, till they were getting tired 
of it ; they had been organising and negociating, making returns and send- 
ing delegates, for some three years, till their best men were in prison and 
their best counties disarmed — and it was time, or it never would be time, 
that something better came of it than the phrases of republicanism and the 
realities of the pitch-cap and triangles. Distrustful of their leaders, of 
their allies, of each other, and almost of themselves, they demanded, with a 
reckless despondency, to be led into instant action.* 

At length, early in May, the plan was arranged and the day fixed. The 
whole force of the Union in the three counties of Dublin, Wicklow, and 
Kildare, headed by Lord Edward Fitzgerald, was to advance simul- 
taneously on the capital, surprise the camp at Loughlinstown, and the 
artillery station at Chapelizod, and seize as hostages the Lord Lieutenant 
and the Privy Council. Intelligence was to be given to the other provinces 
by the detention of the mails, the non-arrival of which would be the 
signal for the North and South to rise. The time fixed was the night of 
the 23rd of May. 

The government, meanwhile, had its eye on every one of the conspi- 
rators ; dogged their every step, knew their every thought ; worked with 
them as tools, played with them as puppets, to be thrown away and broken 
when done with. On the 1 9th of May, one *' F. H." earned a thousand pounds 
of secret-service money, by guiding " the Major and his People " to the 
hiding-place of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. On the 21st, John Sheares and 
his brother Henry were arrested on the information of a certain Militia 
Captain John Wabnefobd Abmstbong, who had been running back- 
wards and forwards every day for ten days together between them and 
Lord Castlereagh. The 23rd of May came — and the Rebellion came ; but 
the rebel army missed its General, and the rebel councils had lost their 

* See the minutes of meetings in April and May (Report of Secret Committee, Ap- 
pendix xiv.) 




The city of Dublin, on the night of the 23rd of May, gave ample signs that 
the hour was at last come. Parliament had the day before been informed, 
by a Lord Lieutenant's message, that '* in the course <rf that week " the 
war might be expected to begin, in the capital, at the seat of government 
itself: and the streets of the metropolis had thereupon witnessed the novel 
and awful spectacle of a solemn procession of the Commons of Ireland, 
" two and two, preceded by the Speaker, the Serjeant-at-Arms, and all 
the officers of the House," carrying up to the viceregal residence the ex- 
pression of their " horror and indignation," their " determined resolution 
and energy." The note of prepai*ation was not sounded prematurely. As 
the fatal day drew on, the signs of the impending crisis became too mani- 
fest and multiplied to be mistaken. Gentlemen found themselves suddenly 
deserted by their servants, merchants and manufacturers by their clerks, 
artificers, and porters, who went off in haste to join the armed or half- 
armed bands that were known to beset the city in every direction for 
twenty or thiily miles round — the few who remained being more dreaded, 
as spies and, possibly, assassins, than the many who took the field as open 
rebels ;* families were flying to England ; all labour and amusement were 
alike suspended, and the busiest haunts of peaceful industry were full of 
military array and bustle : everything united to oppress men's imagina- 
tions with the boding of some vast undefined calamity. The very extent 
and rapidity of the preparations for public security only added to the pub- 
lic terror, by imaging the public danger. 

With the approach of night the general consternation rose to its highest 
pitch. It was known that the metropoUs was to be the first point of 
attack ; but when, where, and how the attack would begin, no man could 
tell — ^there was no knowing but it might have begun already. At an early 
hour after the departure of the mails, fugitives came hurrying into the 
city with tidings that the roads were intercepted in all directions ; that on 
the north towards Swords and Santry, and on the south under the Rath- 
famham mountains, large bodies of men were already gathering : but of 
their numbers, leaders, arms, intentions, and resources, no account was to 
be had. All was confusion, and every rumour was extravagantly exagge- 
rated. The drums beat to arms, the garrison and the various corps of yeo- 
manry were got ready for action ; but how and where to act no man knew : 
no one knew his station, or could ascertain his duties. Orders were 
issued and revoked ; positions were assigned and countermanded — all was 
confused, indecisive, and unintelligible. No probable point of attack was 

* Plowden says (" Historical Review," vol. ii., p. 693), *' It is a iDost melancholy 
proof of the progress of rebellion, that every person, almost without distinction, in and 
about Dublin, whose situation in life put him in the occasion of retaining any number 
of men, either as servants, artificers, workmen, or labourers, was suddenly left and 
abandoned by those persons attending their respective posts for the general rising.'* 


indicated, no precise, understood plan of defence was announced ; the 
night was pitch dark (the lamp-lighters having mostly struck work on the 
occasion) — the only principle of military action appeared to he that very 
simple and ancient one, " Every man for himself, and God for us all." * 

'* The cavalry and infantry in Smithfield," says an eye-witness, " were 
in some places so compactly interwoven that a dragoon could not wield his 
sword without cutting down a foot-soldier, nor a foot-soldier discharge his 
musket without knocking down a trooper. f Five hundred rebels with 
long pikes, coming on rapidly in the dark, might without difficulty have as- 
saOed the yeomen at once from &ve different points. * * * AH the 
barristers, attorneys, merchants, bankers, revenue officers, shopkeepers, 
students of the university, doctors, apothecaries, and corporators of an im- 
mense metropolis, in red coats, with a sprinkling of parsons — all doubled 
up together amid bullock-stalls and sheep-pens, awaiting in profound 
darkness (not with impatience) for invisible executioners to dispatch them 
without mercy— was not, abstractedly, a situation to engender much hi- 
larity. Scouts now and then came, only to report their ignorance ; a 
running buzz went round that the videts were driven in ; and the reports 
of distant musketry, like a twitch of electricity, gave a slight but percep- 
tible movement to men's muscles. A few faintly-heard shots on the north 
side also seemed to announce that the vanguard of the Santry men was ap- 
proaching. In the meantime, no orders came from the general ; and if 
there had, no orders could have been obeyed. ♦ * * Never did the 
rebels lose so favourable an opportunity of covering a field of battle with dis* 
tinguished carcases."f 

It was found, at break of day, that the insurgents, both at Santry and 
Rathfarnham, had been deterred by the military preparations of the capital 
from executing their plan of a simultaneous attack. They had stopped the 
mail coaches, shot the coachmen, and burned some houses ; but their fur- 
ther efforts had been disconcerted by Lord Jocelyn's Fox-Hunters (a ca- 
valry corps, so called from their fine horses), who had marched rapidly on 
one of their parties, sabred several, taken a few prisoners, and dispersed 
the remainder. 

On the 24th, the reign of terror, and of the cruelty that waits on terror, 
formally began in Dublin. Martial law was declared all over Ireland, 
by a viceregal proclamation, ordering " all the general officers command- 
ing his Majesty's forces, to punish all persons acting, aiding, or in any 
manner assisting in the rebellion which now exists in this kingdom, «£?- 
eordingto martiallaw, either hy death ob othebwise" (by whipping, 
house-burning, half-hanging, pitch-capping, for instance), " as to them 
shall seem expedient for the punishment and suppression of all rebels in the 

* See Banrington's ** Historic Memoirs/' vol. ii., p. 255. Sir Jonah, as head of a 
corps of cavalry patrol, " very narrowly escaped breaking his neck in an excavation." 
He says, " there was not a spark of light to fight by." 

f " Smithfield is a long and very wide street, open at both ends, one of which is 
terminated by the quays and river ; it is intersected by narrow streets, and formed al- 
together one of the most disagreeable positions in which to cram an immense body of 
demi-discipUned men and horses in solid mass, without any other order than * If you 
are attacked, defend yourselves to the last extremity.* " 

J Harrington, uhi svp. — " * Steady in the rear,* or, * What the devil are you afraid of* 
were the only intelligible expressions (curses excepted) which were uttered during the 
popping of the musketry." 


several districts." Notices were issued to the citizens to keep within 
doors from nine at night till five in the morning ; to place on the outside of 
their house-doors lists of all persons in their respective dwellings ; ahd to 
surrender all unregistered arms in theii possession, under penalty of being 
" forthwith sent on board his Majesty's navy." The bridges were strongly 
palisaded, and military guards set night and day. Parliament continued 
sitting ; and the courts of law remained open for the adjudication of civil 
causes : but legislation and judicature both wore the livery of war. Senators 
legislated, barristers pleaded, and juries found verdicts '^ in uniform, with 
their side-arms ;" one of the judges even (Baron Medge) made his ap- 
pearance on the bench in soldier s garb. The Commons lent their com- 
mittee-room to a court martial ; while in the House itself, representatives of 
the people were found who deemed even that a too-tedious and needless 
formality.* Military executions began, and continued with unabated 
activity, on the bridges and the lamp-irons, till habit soon reconciled men 
to what, at first, was not only disgusting but horrible. " The city as- 
sumed altogether the appearance of one monstrous barrack, or slaughter- 

The war, meanwhile, had begun at the time and (so far as circumstances 
allowed) in the manner appointed. The prime movers of the conspiracy 
were in prison ; the General who was to have taken the field in Kildare, 
and whose name and presence would have inspired universal confidence, 
and concentrated the whole physical force of the midland and metropolitan 
counties in one combined movement, was slowly dying, in Dublin Newgate, 
of the wounds inflicted by his captors ; the whole system was disorganised, 
and the rebellion might have been supposed to be dead before its birth. 
But there was life in it still — the life of revenge smarting under intolerable 
wrong and insult, and of terror maddened into rage by worse things yet 
in prospect. Free-quarters and house-burnings saved the shattered and 
crumbling confederacy from the dissolution that seemed to menace it]: 

• On the 35th of May, Colonel Maxwell — since better known as the Saint Famham 
of ultra-evangelical, Reformation-Society celebrity — " submitted to the wisdom of the 
house whether it would not be right and necessary that military executions $hould have 
retrospect to those persons who were then confined, and that they should be disposed of as 
expeditionsly as possible^ in order that the rebels who looked up to them as leaders might 
no longer derive any encouragement from the expectation of rescuing them at a future 
day from their captivity." 

Even Lord- Castlereagh thought this too bad. His lordship " most earnestly be- 
sought gentlemen that they wotild not suffer the xeal and warmth of their feelings oti this 
occasion to run away vnth their good sense; that they would not proceed to that which 
would be unconstitutional indeed. " 

t On the morning of the 24th, says Barrington, the bodies of the insurgents sabred 
by the Fox-Hunters were brought in a cart to Dublin, and " stretched out in the Castle* 
yard, where the Viceroy then resided, and in full view of the Secretary* s windows. They lay 
on the pavement, as trophies of the first skirmish, during a hot day, cut and gashed in 
every part, covered with clotted blood and dust, the most frightful spectacle which ever 
disgraced a royal rebidence, save the seraglio." 

^ Lady Louisa ConoUy writes, on the 21st of May — "This last week has been a most 
painful one to us. Maynooth, Kilcock, Leixlip, and Celbridge have had part of a.ScoCch 
regiment quartered at each place, living upon free-quarters, and every day threatening to 
burn the towns. I have spent days in entreaties and threats to give up the horrid pikes ; 
some houses burned at Kilcock yesterday produced the effect. Maynooth held oat 
yesterday, though some houses were burnt, and some people punished. This morning, 
the people of Leixlip are bringing in their arms. Celbridge as yet holds out, though 
five houses arc now burning.'* — Moore's " Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald," vol, ii.,p. 100. 


The first insurgent movements, though apparently fortuitous, irrregular 

and confused, still bore traces of the original plan. The peasantry of the 

metropolitan district, without leaders, with little ammunition, with no 

] other arms than clumsy pikes and a few guns in bad order, rose on the 

night of the 23rd, stopped the noithern, southern, and Connaught mails, 

and so far acted on the original scheme as to attempt, by separate but 

^ simultaneous onsets, the surprisal of military posts and the hemming-in of 

, the capital from external succours. That night, and the following day, 

there was much skirmishing with small parties of the royal troops, and 

several towns near the seat of government were attacked. The war may be 

^ said to have broken out at Naas, in Kildare, about fourteen miles from 

.' Dublin. On the morning of the 24th, a body of about a thousand in- 

r surgents, led by one Michael Reynolds, made an attempt to surprise that 

* town, having previously concealed numerous parties of their friends in the 
houses and gaFdens of the inhabitants, who were very generally disposed to 

^.' favour them. On the entry of the assailants, their confederates rushed out 

^ from their hiding-places to join them. The alarm was given by a shout 

that the town was their own, and by shots fired into the apartments of 

Lord Gosford, who commanded in the place with three hundred of the 

% Armagh militia and some cavalry. But his lordship had been apprised, 

!f by anonymous letters, of the intended assault — the garrison had been re- 

r inforced, and was on the alerts— the rebels were quickly repulsed, and pur- 

^ sued with slaughter. They were completely dispersed, many of them 

^ ' taken prisoners, and immediately hanged. 

f? A similar result attended an attack on the town of Carlow, in the course 

J ', of the following night. A body of insurgents, amounting to a thousand 
or fifteen hundred, having assembled on the grounds of Sir Edward Cros- 

^1 hie, a mile and a half distant from the town, marched in at two o'clock in 

' V the morning of the 25th, shouting with all the careless confidence of anti- 

^ cipated triumph. But the garrison (four hundred and fifty men, under 

f00 Colonel Mahon) were prepared and posted to receive them, having had 

1 i'" information of the plans of the insurgents by an intercepted letter. A 

•^j' destructive fire was opened on the intruders ; they recoiled, and attempted 

* J a retreat, but their fiight was cut off by troops posted in their rear. 
^ f^ JN^umbers of them took refuge in the houses, which were immediately fired 

by the soldiers ; eighty houses, with some hundred men, were burned to 

^^. ashes. Here, as elsewhere, the end of the battle was the beginning of 

'*^ murderous military executions; about two hundred were speedily dis- 

* patched by hanging or shooting, according to martial law. Among the 
1^. first victims was Sir Edward Crosbie, whose lawn the insurgents had 
>M made their rendezvous, but who had borne no part, directly or indirectly, 
^- in the rising. He was tried in the usual fashion of Irish courts-martial of 
^^ 1798 ; and condemned and shot as a United Irishman.* 

The first results of the insurrection were generally of this character ; 


■^ * The caac of this gentleman excited much sympathy; in any other time and 

**!' country than Ireland in 1798 it would have called forth horror and execration. The 

ipj^ Rev. James Gordon says (" History of Ireland," vol. ii., p. 393), "Protestant loyalists, 

jW * witnesses in favour of the accused, were forcibly prevented by the bayonets of the mili- 

^ tary from entering the court ; Catholic prisoners had been tortured by repeated floggings 

^'^ to force them to give evidence against him." His real offence was an opinion in favour 

,!>•'* of emancipation and reform. 

162 HISTOHT OF Tllfi 

hasty, desultory assaults on small towns, in which the insurgents, witTi 
great numerical superiority and abundance of bravery, were easily and 
utterly defeated by the better arms, discipline and organisation of the 
king's troops. In some instances the issue was different. At Dunboyne 
and Barretstown small parties of fcncibles were routed. At the little town 
of Prosperous, in Kildare, seventeen miles from Dublin, about an hour after 
midnight on the 23rd, a party of insurgents surprised a few military who 
garrisoned it, fired the barracks, burned or piked the soldiers together with 
their commander, and took temporary possession of the place. Of more 
moment and interest was the action of KilcuUen, a few hours later, which 
had peculiar significance, as affording the first practical demonstration of the 
power and value of the pike* A division of three hundred pikemen was 
thrice furiously charged by a body of British dragoons, under the command 
of General Dundas, ar.d the dragoons were thrice repulsed with great 
slaughter. The experiment had an importance far beyond that of the im- 
mediate occasion. The people began to learn where their real strength 
lay — ^not in any humble imitation of the equipment and discipline of the 
enemy, but in their own physical force wielding their national weapon — 
and soon came to fear not the face of British dragoons.* 

Generally, however, the insurrection in the midland and metropolitan 
counties was a failure. There was no lack of valour on the part of the 
insurgents ; quite enough was done to show what might have been done 
under a leader like Lord Edward Fitzgerald, of talents, character, rank 
and military experience, who would have concentrated the scattered and 
divided popular forces into one mass, and directed their movements with 
military skill and science. But the loss of him was one which there was 
no repairing or compensating. Kildare had for nominal Commander-in- 
Chief the brave and enterprising Aylmer : a leader abundantly qualified to 
achieve victory, wherever victory was possible, but his name had not the 
jprestige of Lord Edward's. The people fought in detail — ^in detached 
parties, under separate leaders, without concert and without skill — and 
were for the most part defeated in detail. The want of able and experienced 
leaders was the occasion, on the 26th of May, of a more serious defeat than 
any which the popular troops had yet sustained. A body of about four 
thousand insurgents, admirably posted on the Hill of Tara, in Meath, with 
everything to ensure a cheap and easy victory except an officer who knew 
the military value of the position, and to whose sole authority they paid 
implicit obedience, hastily quitted their ground on the approach of some 

* " The pike, at the commencement, very frequently succeeded against the regular, 
and always against the Yeomanry cavalry ; and in close combat with even the infantry, 
it proved in some instances irresistible. The extreme expertness with which the Irish 
handled the pike was surprising. By withdrawing, they could shorten it to little more 
than the length of a dagger, and in a second dart it out to its full extent. At Old Kil- 
cuUen they entirely repulsed General Dundas and the heavy cavalry in a regular 
charge, killing two captains and many soldiers ; the General escaped with great diffi- 
culty by the fleetness of his horse. At New Ross they entirely broke the heavy horse by 
their pikes. A solid mass or deep column of determined pikemen could only be broken 
by artillery, or a heavy fire of musketry. Well served artillery they could not withstand, if 
not close enough to be rushed upon. Colonel Foot's detachment of infantry was nearly 
annihilated by the pike at Oulard ; only the Major and two others escaped." — Barring- 
ton's " Historic Memoirs." 

Holt says, in his " Memoirs " (vol. i., p. 43), " I soon found the value of the pike 
against cavalry." 


four hundred royalist troops, and rushed down 6n their assailants in the 
plain below. The British infantry fled from the charge of the pike ; but 
the phalanx of pikemen was speedily broken by the enemy's artillery. 
The result was a complete rout ; the county of Meath was disabled, and 
the scheme of the insurgents for opening a communication between Dublin 
and the North was totally frustrated. Of the broken remnant of the Meath 
forces, the majority dispersed : a few of the more determined remained in 
arms, and joined the ranks of Aylmer in Kildare. 

The rout of Tara Hill, together with the previous discomfitures sus- 
tained by the United forces, had thus, in a very few days, broken the 
strength of the insurrection in the eastern counties. Discouraged by 
successive defeats, the insurgents began to evince a general disposition to 
relinquish their efforts and disperse. On the 31st, at Knockawlin Hill, on 
the borders of the Curragh of Kildare, General Dundas received the sur- 
render of a chief of the name of Perkins, and two thousand men, on the 
terms of a free pardon and an unmolested return to their homes. The insur- 
gents, says Plowden, " dispersed in all directions with shouts of joy, 
leaving thirteen cart-loads of pikes behind." But the disposition to sur- 
render soon received a fatal damper. On the 3rd of June, a party of some 
hundreds, having stipulated for similar terms, repaired by appointment to a 
place called the Gibbet Rath, on the Curragh, to meet Major-General Sir 
James Duff, then on his march from Limerick with a division of six hun- 
dred men, and fulfil their part of the engagement. By an act of atrocity 
and perfidy together, which only the history of Ireland in 1798 can 
parallel, and of which the alleged " accident " that gave occasion to it is 
but a slender palliation, the intended pacific surrender was met by a cruel 
and cowardly massacre. One of the insurgents, before giving up his 
musket, discharged it in the air, with the muzzle upwards. The act was 
construed into a violation of the treaty ; the soldiers fired on the disarmed 
and unresisting multitude, who were '* crowded together in a place neither 
fit for defence nor escape, a wide plain without hedge, ditch, or bog;" 
they fled vsrilh the utmost precipitation, and were butchered without mercy 
by the Jocelyn Fox-Hunters. The numbers of the slaughtered on this 
occasion are variously stated at two hundred, and three hundred and fifty. 
No part of the infamy of this transaction attaches to General Dundas, who 
knew nothing of it at the time, and evinced his utter abhorrence of it 
afterwards. But the whole of it was deliberately adopted by the House of 
Commons. The Honourable House voted its almost unanimous thanks to 
Sir James Duff, and General Dundas was vehemently censured in debate 
for " treating with, and receiving ambassadors from rebels with arms in 
their hands." 

By this outbreak of military ferocity, the expiring rebellion of the eastern 
counties was kindled into new life, and prolonged far beyond its natural 
term of existence. At once disheartened and enraged, the insurgents 
maintained for many weeks, under the skilful generalship of Aylmer, a 
fugitive and partisan warfare, cutting off the enemy's supplies, storming 
their outposts, harassing their marches, checking and chastising their 
violences, with a fertility and boldness of invention, and a rapidity of exe- 
cution, which overcame all disadvantages of circumstance and position. 
Aylmer did not lay down his arms until the complete and final suppression 
of the rebellion generally had made the cause hopeless. He ultimately 


capitulated to General Dundas, on terms honourable to himself and 
favourable to his brave companions in arms.* 

Theobald Wolfe Tone writes, on the 20th of June, on receipt of the 
iirst news of the outbreak — '' In all this business I do not see one syllable, 
about ths North, which astonishes me more than I can express." The 
reader probably participates in this astonishment : the rebellion has now 
been going on for a week and more, yet we do not see one syllable about 
the North. Ulster, the first of all the provinces of Ireland in organisation, 
and the loudest in boasting of its organisation ; the camp of the old Volun^ 
teers ; the theatre of Dungannon Conventions and Belfast Reform-meetings ; 
the source and centre of the United Irish Societies, old and new ; the first 
to experience and resent the irritants of Orangeism and martial law — 
Ulster, which has hitherto filled the front place in our history, has now 
shrunk back into silence and inaction. The 23rd of May was come and 
gone — the men of Leinster had been in the field for upwards of a week, 
winning battles and losing them — still all was quiet in the North. Ulster, 
it seems, was still busy " organising " itself : the organisation had been 
going on for some seven years, but was not yet finished. The Secret 
Committee present us, in their Report, with the following curious docu- 
ment :— 

" Provincial Meeting, May 29th, Armagh. ► 
" Nine members present. Heard, from the last provincial reports, 
" that a plan of insurrection was in contemplation by the National Execu- 
" tive. Two members were deputed from the Ulster Executive to form the 
" said plan, in conjunction with certain deputies from the other provincial 
" Executive. The plan was, for Dublin to rise and to seize on the govern- 
" ment, and the mail-coaches were to be burned for a signal for the whole 
" kingdom to act. These delegates returned and reported the same to the 
" Ulster Executive. The reporter complained t?iat the Ulster Executive 
" had taken no measures to put the people in readiness to act. Every ' 

" application had been made to the Executive to call the Adjutant-Generals | 

** together, but without eflect ; they were required also to summon the pro- 
" vincial delegates together, to put the respective counties in a state ready 
*' to act, and that they did not obey. He thought they completely be^ ^ 

" trayed the people, both of Leinster and Ulster; and he thought it the | 

'^ duty of the present committee to denounce and vote them out of office, I 

" and to take some speedy and vigorous measures to second the efforts of 
*' the people in the upper counties. They were accordingly voted out of 

* On leaving Ireland, in pursuance of the terms of his surrender, Aylmer went to the 
Continent, entered the Austrian service, and met with rapid promotion. "Many years 
afterwards," says Teeling (" Personal Narrative", Sequel, p. 188), " when the Austrian 
cavalry was regarded as a model of perfection by the Continental states, the Regent of I 

England solicited trom the Emperor the services of an experienced officer, for the instruc- 
tion of the British cavalry in that system of tactics which had rendered his squadrons 
the admiration of the military world. The Emperor acceded to the request, and the 
officer whom he selected for this important service was William Aylmer ! Aylmer ^ 

arrived in England, executed his commission, was honoured with the approbation of the 
highest personage in the state, and presented with a splendid token of royal favour. But 
the prejudice of other times was revived, when in the person of the Austrian officer was 
recognised the Rebel Chief who twenty years before had marshalled the United forces 
on the plains of Kildare." 

He died in the service of Bolivar and the Columbian Republic. 


** office. * * * The reporter then asked the delegates individually, 
** if they thought the people they represented would act ? — ^and they all 
" said they would, except Down : its delegate observed, that he would not 
** exactly answer whether it would or not, but he would try and ascertain it 
*' before taking the sense of the Adjutant-Generals and Colonels. It was then 
" resolved that the Adjutant-Generals of Down and Antrim should meet 
*^ next day ; and, in case that the two counties would act, that they should 
^' form a general plan of insurrection, and that they should send the said 
'^ plan by express to the different Adjutant-Generals throughout the pro- 
*•*' vince, that they should all act at the same moment In case the insur- 
" rection was not agreed upon, they were to meet at Belfast on the 24th of 
" June : but it was geneballt the opinion that they were all 
•' to betubn to theib bespective occupations and industby, and 
" not meet again and deceite the people any longeb." 

Truly, a most lame and impotent conclusion to seven years of agitating 
and organising ! 

The fact is, Ulster had too much organisation. " Ulster," says Teeling, 
*' had the command of a powerful force ; her people were impatient for 
action, waiting orders from their superior officers, hut in too Mgh a state 
of organisation to act without them"* — and the best of them were in 
prison. The organisation of this province was too minute, elaborate, and 
technical. Organisation, indeed, it was not — but mechanism ; a substitute 
for the energies and passions of living men, rather than their vital, spon- 
taneous expression. The time for rising in Ulster would have been, if 
ever, when oppression first made the risks of rebellion more bearable than 
the certainties attendant on submission : but that time was gone. Long 
endurance had made the Northerns callous — long waiting had made them 
weary, languid and heart-sick. Insurgency had lost that fresh vitality, that 
all-daring impulsiveness, which no possible quantity or quality of organisa- 
tion can supply the place of The Ulster patriots seem never to have taken 
into their account that the government was organised—orgBmsed far better 
than they were ever likely to be. Organisation and secrecy, with the 
prestige of legitimacy besides, are always on the side of a government ; and 
the main strength of insurrection must ever be, not in any forced and artificial 
imitation of these — ^but in the irrepressible, incalculable and uncalculating 
energies of popular will and passion. Machinery is an excellent thing in 
its way ; but it never yet made a revolution. 

It is an instructive fact in the philosophy of politics, that the strength of 
the Irish Rebellion of 1 798 was found where the politicians had never looked 
for rebellion at all — in one of the least prepared and organised counties of 
Ireland. While Ulster was still busy, in its seventh year of United Irish 
agitation, organising in committee-rooms, deputing, reporting, voting, re- 
solving, and doubting after all whether it might not be as well " not to 
meet again and deceive the people any longer," Wexfobd was already in 
the field, taking the king's towns and keeping them, chasing the king's 
troops like hunted deer, and getting up a war which it took a dozen ge- 
neral officers and twenty thousand good Biitish troops to put down. The 
history of this insurrection in the county of Wexford — unconnected, as it 

• " Personal Narrative," p. 214. 



.was, with the plans and the orgamsation of the United Irishmen-— irregular, 
impulsive, unpremeditated, yet quite overshadowing in extent and import- 
ance every thing that was done or attempted to be done in all the rest of 
Ireland together — presents matter of grave reflection to all governments, 
especially to all British governments. If Ireland in 1798 had had two 
Wexfords, there never would have been a Secret Committee reporting on 
the " well-timed measures adopted to make the rebellion explode." 

The county of Wexford had, previously to the year 1 798, been, on the whole, 
one of the most tranquil and thriving in Ireland. There had been abund- 
ance of rancorous, intolerant Protestantism among its gentry ; its repre- 
sentatives in parliament had been famous for the unifonnity and vehemence 
of their opposition to each successive relaxation of the Popery laws ; and 
in 1 782, the county had earned a bad pre-eminence in bigotry by excluding 
Catholics from the ranks of its Volunteer corps. Still, the peaceful, in- 
dustrious temper of the people had gone far to neutralise the mischief. 
Wexford had seen nothing as yet of Defenders or Orangemen ; riots and 
disturbances were rare ; capital executions few ; Whitebqyism almost un- 
known. Ijand bore a higher value here than in most other parts of Ire- 
land, and the peasantry enjoyed a degree of physical comfort not common 
in the counties of the South.* Apart from the strong An ti- Catholic po- 
litics of the Wexford gentry, this county was remarkably free from political 
agitation. Its inhabitants were a quiet, tractable, conservative sort of 
people, who kept themselves to themselves — shut up by sea and mountain 
in a corner of the island. f United Irish politics could never make much 
way in Wexford. An attempt had been made to organise the county ,J 
but it was met with a general " apathy" which effectually discouraged the 
emissaries of the Union from further efforts. In proportion to its popula- 
tion, Wexford was the least United-Irish county in Ireland. It was un- 
represented in the Leinster Provincial Committee, had no share whatever 
in their counsels, and remained quiet on the night of the 23rd of May. 
Wexford had never intended to rebel, never had a taste for rebellion — 
never would have rebelled, but for those horrible brutalities of military li- 
cense which a Clare- and-Castlereagh Secret Committee impudently desig- 
nated " well-timed measures." 

Early in the year 1798, attempts had been made on the part of the Pro- 
testant magistracy of Wexford, by means of the spy-and-informer system, 
to implicate the county in the United Irish conspiracy : but the infor- 
mers they employed were of so infamous a character, that no jury could be 
found to credit their testimony. The cases broke down, and the spring 
assizes ended without a conviction. Wexford continued tolerably quiet 
down to the month of April ; when Orangeism, pilch-caps, house-burn- 
ings, half-hangings, and whippings to extort confession, were all imported 

* See Hay's " History of the Insurrection in the County of Wexford," pp. 12-14. 

f Hay says, "The ^ronies of Forth and Bargy are occupied by the descendants of an 
English colony, who came over with Strongbow in the reign of Henry II. They have 
ever since, in the course of upward? of six hundred years, lived entirely, with little or 
no admixtuie, within themselves Until of late years, it was a rare thing to find a man 
among them that had ever gone farther from home than Wexford. They have eveli pre- 
served their language, probably without alteration or improvement." — P. 17. 

It was a dangerous experiment making people of this sort rebels. 

J By William Putnam M'Cabe. — Madden, vol. i., p. 402. 


t»gether into that previously peaceful and tranquil district, by the North 
Cork Mixitia, commanded by Lord Kingsborough. 

" In this regiment," says Mr. Hay, " there were a great number of 
Orangemen, who were zealous in making proselytes and displaying their 
devices, having medals and orange ribbons triumphantly pendant from 
their bosoms. It is believed that, previous to this period, tiiere were but 
few actual Orangemen in the county ; but soon after, those whose prin- 
ciples inclined that way, finding themselves supported by the military, 
joined the association, and publicly avowed themselves, by assuming the 
devices of the fraternity. 

" It is said that ike North Cork regiment were also the inventors — ^but 
they certainly were the introducers— of pitch-cap torture into the coimty of 
Wexford. Any person having their hair cut short (and therefore called a 
Croppy* by which appellation the soldiery designated a United Irish- 
man), on being pointed out by some loyal neighbour, was immediately 
seized and brought into a guard-house, where caps either of coarse linen or 
strong brown paper, besmeared inside with pitch, were always kept ready 
for service. The unfortunate victim had one of these, well heated, com- 
pressed on his head, and when judged of a proper degree of coolness, so 
that it could not be Easily pulled off, the sufferer was turned out amidst the 
horrid acclamations of the merciless tortiurers, and to the view of vast 
numbers of people, who generally crowded about the guard-house door, at- 
tracted by the afflicted cries of the tormented. Many of those persecuted in 
this manner experienced additional anguish from the melted pitch trickling 
into their eyes. This afforded a rare addition of enjoyment to these keen 
sportsmen, who reiterated their horrid yells of exultation on the re- 
petition of the several accidents to which their game was liable upon being 
turned out ; for, in the. confusion and hurry of escaping from the ferocious 
hands of these more than savage barbarians, the blinded victims frequently 
fell or inadvertently dashed their heads against the walls in their way. 
The pain of disengaging this pitched cap from the head must be next to 
intolerable. The hair was often torn out by the roots, and not unfrequently 
parts of the skin were so scalded or blistered as to adhere and come off 
along with it The terror and dismay that these outrages occasioned are 
inconceivable. A seijeant of the North Cork, nicknamed Tom the DevU, 
was most ingenious in devising new modes of torture. Moistened gun- 
powder was frequently rubbed into the hair cut close, and then set on fire ; 
some, while shearing for this purpose, had the tips of their ears snipt off; 
sometimes an entire ear, and often both ears were completely cut off; and 
many lost part of their noses during the like preparation. But, strange to 
tell, these atrocities were publicly practised without the least reserve in 
open day, and no magistrate or officer ever interfered, but shamefully con- 
nived at this extraordinary mode of quieting the people I * * * Fe- 
males were also exposed to the grossest insults from these military ruffians. 
Many women had their petticoats, handkerchiefs, caps, ribbons, and all 
parts of their dress that exhibited a shade of green (considered the national 

* Xhe practice of cutting the hair short un the back of the head, at the time of ini- 
tiation, was one of those puerile follies in use among the United Irishmen, which could 
answer no possible purpose but to attract attention and excite suspicion. Short hair was 
considered, in 1798, a^wiwtd/ocic evidence of treason ; and numbers of persons lost their 
lives as rebels, against whom no other overt act could be alleged than their '* croppyism." 


colour of Ireland), torn off, and their ears assailed by the most vile and in- 
decent ribaldry."* 

The result of these atrocities was such as very speedily to answer their 
design of getting up disturbances, or the semblance of disturbances, whicli 
'* well-timed measures" might improve into rebellion. The first effect of 
the introduction of Orangeism into Wexford was terror. The people 
could not feel themselves safe in their own houses. Their fears became at 
length so great, that they ^^ forsook their houses in the nighty and slept 
(if under such circumstances they could sleep) in the ditches." But these 
nocturnal gatherings of trembling fugitives soon became councils of con- 
spirators. The idea of resistance— collective, armed resistance — began to 
familiarise itself to these poor creatures' imaginations ; and great numbers 
took the United Irish oath, in order to band themselves together more 
effectually in self-defence. 

The magistracy had now a pretext for arming themselves with new 
powers: the North Cork Militia had got things ready for the Insurrection 
Act. On the 25th of April, twenty-seven magistrates met at Gorey, and 
resolved that the county should be ioT\hYa\hproclaimed ; which was done 
accordingly, on the 27th. From this period, the work of torture and terror 
went on further and faster than ever. Mr. Hay, a resident in Wexford, 
and an eye-witness of the facts which he narrates, says — 

" The proclamation of the county having given greater scope to the 
ingenuity of magistrates to devise means of quelling all sjrmptoms of rebel- 
lion, as well as of using every exertion to procure discoveries, they soon fell 
toburningof houses wherein pikes or other offensive weapons were discovered, 
no matter how brought there. f But they did not stop here; for the 
dwellings of suspected persons, and those from which any of the inhabitants 
were found to be absent at night, were also consumed. This circumstance 
of absence from the houses very generally prevailed through the county, 
although there were the strictest orders forbidding it. This was occasioned 
at first, as was before observed, from apprehension of the Orangemen' 
but afterwards proceeded from the actual experience of torture by the 
people from the yeomen and magistrates. Some, too, abandoned their 
homes for fear of being whipped, if, on being apprehended, confessions 
satisfactory to the magistrates could neither be given or extorted ; and this 
infliction many persons seemed to fear more than death itself. Many un- 
fortunate men who were taken in their own houses were strung up as it 
were to be hanged, but were let down now and then to try if strangulation 
would oblige them to become informers. After these and the like experi- 
ments, several persons languished for some time, and at length perished in 
consequence of them. Smiths and carpenters, whose assistance was 
considered indispensable in the fabrication of pikes, were pointed out, on 
evidence of their trades, as the first and fittest objects of torture. But the 
sagacity of some magistrates became at length so acute, from habit and 

♦ "Insurrection in the County of Wexford," pp. 57-59. 

f Probably in many cases /w< there for the uses of the finders. It is on judicial record 
that this was done in Tipperary. In that county, timber was cut and shaped into pike- 
handles iy Me members of a yeomanry corps, and by persons employed by them, which 
pike-handles they afterwards pretended to " discover,** in consequence of secret information. — 
See the affidavits in the case of Rex v. White and Goring (Plowden, vol, ii.,p. 815) ; to 
which affidavits the Court of King's Bench gave credence. 


exercise, that they discerned a United Irishman, even at the first glance : 
and their zeal never suffered any person whom they deigned to honour 
with such distinction, to pass off without convincing proc^of their attention."* 

After detailing several instances of gross and iniquitous cruelty, Mr. 
Hay proceeds : — 

** While the minds of the people were in this state of distraction and 
alarm, numbers condenmed to transportation by the magistrates of other 
counties daily passed through the county of Wexford, on their way to 
Duncannon Fort. Groups of from twelve to fifteen car-loads at a time 
have gone through Ross alone. These terrifying examples added, if pos- 
sible, to the apprehensions already entertained, and the precedent was soon 
after put in practice in the county of Wexford itself. 

" Great as the atrocities already related may appear (and surely they 
are very deplorable), enormities still more shocking to humanity remained 
to be perpetrated. However grating to generous and benevolent feeling 
the sad detail must prove, imperious trufli imposes the irksome necessity 
of proceeding to &cts. 

" Mr. HtTNTEK Go WAN had for many years distinguished himself by 
his activity in apprehending robbers, for which he was rewarded with a 
pension of £100 per annum ; and it were much to be wished that every one 
who has obtained a pension had as well deserved it. Now exalted to the 
rank of magistrate, and promoted to be captain of a corps of yeomen, he 
was zealous in exertions to inspire the people about Gorey with dutiful 
submission to the magistracy, and a respectful awe of the yeomanry. On 
a public day in the week preceding the insurrection, the town of Gorey 
beheld the triumphal entry of Mr. Gowan at the head of his corps, with his 
sword drawn, and a human finger stuck on the point of it ! 

" With this trophy he marched into the town, parading up and down the 
streets several times, so that there was not a person in Gorey who did 
not witness this exhibition ; while, in the meantime, the triumphant corps 
displayed all the devices of Orangemen. After the labour and fatigue of 
the day, Mr. Gowan and his men retired to a public house to refresh them- 
selves, and, like true blades of game, their punch was stirred about with 
the finger that had graced their ovation, in imitation of keen fox-hunters, 
who whisk a bowl of punch with the brush of a fox before their boozing com- 
mences. This captain and magistrate afterwards went to the house of Mr. 
Jones, where his daughters were, and while taking a snack that was set 
before him, he bragged of having blooded his corps that day, and that they 
were as staimch bloodhounds as any in the world. The daughters begged 
of their father to shew them the croppy finger, which he deliberately took 
from his pocket and handed to them. Misses dandled it about with sense- 
less exultation, at which a young lady in the room was so shocked that 
she turned about to a window, holding her hand to her face to avoid the 
horrid sight. Mr. Gowan perceiving this, took the finger from his 
daughters, and archly dropped it into the disgusted lady's bosom. She 

* Hay, pp. 63-64. 

Mr. Thomas Judkin Fitzgerald, the " flogging sheriff " of Tipperary, was particularly 
celebrated for this kind of discernment. " I know by his face that he is a traitor — a 
Carmelite scoundrel," was his only charge against a young man of the name of Doyle, 
whom he had cruelly and indecently scourged in the streets of Clonmell. — See Flowden, - 
ubi sup. 


inBtantly fainted, and thus the scene ended. Mr. Gowan constantly 
boasted of this and other similar heroic actions, which he repeated in the 
presence of Brigade-Major Fitzgerald, on whom he had waited officially ; 
but so far from meeting with his wonted applause, the Major obliged him 
instantly to leave the company.'** 

We have no wish to write a Newgate Calendar : but these things belong 
to history. The nauseous atrocities above detailed were the public, day- 
light actions of public men, and went to make public events. Hunter 
Gowan and his " staunch blood-hounds," and the Misses Gowan and the 
class of people they represented, and the state of society that tolerated 
such people, and the government that countenanced, patronised, and em- 
ployed them : we have here the elements of all that was most violent and 
horrible in the Rebellion of 1798. 

" Enniscorthy and its neighbourhood," continues Mr. Hay, " were 
similarly protected by the activity of Archibald Hamilton Jacob, 
aided by the yeomen cavalrj'^ thoroughly equipped for this kind of service. 
They scoured the country, having in their train a regular executioner, 
completely appointed with his implements, a hanging rope and a cat-o'nine- 
tails. Many detections and consequent prosecutions of United Irishmen 
soon followed. A law had been recently enacted, that magistrates, upon 
their own authority, could sentence to transportation persons accused and 
convicted before them. Great numbers were accordingly taken up, prose- 
cuted, and condemned. Some, however, appealed to an adjournment of a 
quarter-session held in Wexford, on the 23rd of May, in the county court- 
house ; at which three and twenty magistrates from different parts of the 
county attended. Here all the private sentences were confirmed, except that 
of one man who was brought in on horseback that morning, carrying a pike 
with a handle of enormous length through Wexford town, on his way to 
the gaol. This exhibition procured him the reversion of his sentence, at the 
instance of the very magistrates who had condemned him. In the course 
of the trials on these appeals, in the public court-house of Wexford, 
Mr. A. H. Jacob appeared as evidence against the prisoners, and publicly 
avowed the happy discoveries he had made in consequence of inflicting the 
torture : many instances of whipping and strangulation he particularly 
detailed, with a degree of self-approbation and complacency that clearly 
demonstrated how highly he was pleased to rate the merits of his own great 
and loyal services !" f 

After the public business was over, the magistrates retired to the grand- 
jury room, to concoct further measures for " tranquillising" the county. 
The result of their deliberations appeared the next day, in the following 

" Notice — ^We, the High Sheriff and Magistrates of the county of 
" Wexford, assembled at sessions held at the county court-house in Wex- 
" ford, this 23rd day of May, 1798, have received the most clear and un- 
" equivocal evidence, private as well as public, that the system and plans 
" of those deluded persons who style themselves and are commonly known 
" by the name of United Irishmen, have been generally adopted by the in- 
" habitants of the several parishes in this county, who have provided them- 
" selves with pikes and other arms for the purpose of carrying their plans 

* Irasiirrection in the County of Wexford, pp. 69-71. 
t Ibid, p. 72. 


•* into execution ; And whereas we have received information that the in- 
*' habitants of some parts of this county have within these few days past 
*' returned to their allegiance, surrendering their arms, and confessing the 
•* errors of their past misconduct : Now we, the High Sheriff and Magis- 
*' trates, assembled as aforesaid, do give this public notice, that if, within 
*' the space of fourteen days from the date hereof, the inhabitants of the 
*' other parts of this county do not come in to some of the magistrates 
*' of this county, and surrender their arms or other offensive weapons, 
** concealed or otherwise, and give such proof of their return to their 
^^ allegiance as shall appear sufficient, an application will be made to 
*' government to send the army at free-quarters into such parishes as 
" shall fail to comply, to enforce due obedience to this notice." 

At the same. time, they voted their unanimous "thanks to Archibald 
Hamilton Jacob, Esq., for his manly, spirited, active and efficacious exer- 
tions for the establishment and preservation of the public peace." 

The fourteen-days' term specified in the magisterial notice seemed to 
hold out a promise that, during that interval at least, the work of cruelty 
and terrorism would be suspended, and that security would attend on sub- 
mission. Such was not the intention of the ruling powers in Wexford. 
All over the county, the people came flocking in to the magistrates, to 
surrender their arms and take out protections : but it made no difference — 
the burnings, the whippings, the hangings and the half-hangings went on 
as before. It was at this time (says Hay) that 

" Mr. Perry, of Inch, a Protestant gentleman, was seized on and brought 
a prisoner to Gorey, guarded by the North Cork Militia, one of whom, 
the noted sergeant nicknamed Tom the Deinl, gave him woful experience 
of his ingenuity and adroitness at devising torment. As a specimen of his 
savoir-faire, he cut off the hair of his head very closely; cut the sign of the 
cross from the front to the back, and transversely from ear to ear, still 
closer ; and probably a pitched cap not being in readiness, gunpowder was 
mixed through the hair, which was then set on fire, and the shocking 
process repeated until every atom of hair that remained could be easily 
pulled out by the roots ; and still a burning candle was continually ap- 
plied, until the entire was completely singed away, and the head left 
totally and miserably blistered ! At Carnew, things were carried to still 
greater lengths ; for, independent of burning, whipping, and torture in all 
shapes, on Friday, the 25th of May, twenty-eight prisoners were brought 
out of the place of confinement, and deliberately shot in a ball-alley by 
the yeomen and a party of the Antrim militia, the infernal deed being 
sanctioned by the presence of their officers ! Many of the men thus in- 
humanly butchered had been confined on mere suspicion ! ! !"* 

Even now the rebellion did not begin, notwithstanding the news that 
day from Kildare — a plain proof that rebellion had never been intended. 
These irritative and stimulant atrocities by no means produced at first 
what one might have supposed to be their most likely and natural effect. 
The people were paralysed rather than exasperated. They ran away and 
hid themselves ; they came in and surrendered ; they seemed willing to do 
anything, and bear anything, rather than rebel. Cloney says, with refer- 
ence to this period — " No one slept in his own house ; the very whistling 

♦ " Insurrection in the County of Wexford," p. 76. 


of the birds seemed to report the approach of an enemy. The remembrance 
of the wailings of the women, and the cries of the children, awake in my 
mind, even at this period, feelings of deep horror. Such was the state of 
things in my neighbourhood, yet not one act of hostility against the 
goverunent luid been even sligfady indicated.'"* So late as Saturday, the 
26th of May, the people continued crowding in to the magistrates, to sur- 
render their arms and obtain protections. Mr. Hay, who spent this day at 
New-park, the seat of Mr. Edward Fitzgerald, a few miles from the county 
town, tells us that a magistrate of the name of Turner was there all day 
long, administering the oath of allegiance to vast numbers of people, re- 
ceiidng surrenders of arms, and giving certificates of protection. He gives 
the following account of the state of terror these poor creatures were in : — 

*' Among the great numbers assembled on this occasion were some men 
from the village of Ballaghkeen, who had the appearance of being more 
dead than alive, from the apprehensions they were under of having their 
houses burnt or themselves whipt, should they return home. These appre- 
hensions had been excited to this degree, because that on the night of 
Thursday, the 24th, the Enniscorthy cavalry, conducted by Mr. Archibald 
Hamilton Jacob, had come to Ballaghkeen ; but on hearing the approach- 
ing noise, the inhabitants ran out of their houses and fled into large brakes 
of furze, on a hill immediately above the village, from whence they could 
hear the cries of one of their neighbours who was dragged out of his house, 
tied up to a thorn tree, and while one yeoman continued flogging him, an- 
other was throwing water on his back. The groans of lie unfortunate 
suflerer, from the stillness of the night, reverberated widely through the 
appalled neighbourhood ; and the spot of execution these men represented 
to have appeared next morning * as if a pig had been killed there.' After 
this transaction, Mr. Jacob went round to all the rest of the houses, and 
signified that if he should find the owners out of them on his next visit, he 
would bum them. These men, whose countenances exhibited signs of real 
terror, particularly from apprehensions of flogging, which they seemed to 
dread more than death itself, offered to surrender themselves prisoners to 
Mr. Turner, who did all in his pow^r to allay their fears, offering to give 
them all certificates, the production of which to Mr. Jacob he was sure 
would afford them protection ; but they still persisted in preferring to 
remain as prisoners with Mr. Turner, rather than to place any confidence 
in Mr. Jacob. Mr. Turner then gave them certificates, declaring their 
absence from home to be by his permission, to be left with their families, 
and told them they might come to his house if they pleased."f 

Human nature, especially Irish popish-peasant nature, will bear much — ' 

* "A Personal Narrative of those Transactions in the County of Wexford in which the 
Author was engaged, during the awful period of 1798." Bj Tliomas Gloney. 

Thomas Clonej, one of the thousands who rebelled to sate their lives, was at this time a 
young man of three-and- twenty, a Catholic, residing at Moneyhore, three miles from 
Enniscorthy, with his father, a substantial and thriving farmer. He had never been a 
United Irishman, or a member of any political socie^. He eventually joined the insur- 
gents (with whom he distinguished himself as a brave, able and humane officer), for the 
simplest of all possible reasons — ^because he '* saw no second course for himself, or indeed 
for any Catholic in his part of the country, to pursue," who did not wish to be burned out 
and shot, hanged, flogged, or pitch-capjied. In Cloney's case, as in very many others, 
rebellion turned out to be the prudent, as it was the honourable and manly course. Mr. 
Cloney is living still, a worthy member of the Loyal National Repeal Association. 

t " Insuirection in the County of Wexford," p. 78. 

There was nothing these poor people held in more horror than the whippings. Mr. 


but there is a limit to everything. On the evening of this same Saturday, 
the 26th of May, terror gave place to rage, and the rebellion began. 

Father John Murphy, of Boolavogue Chapel, in the parish of Kil- 
cormick, near Enniscorthy, was living quietly at home, doing what in 
bim lay to keep the peace in his parish, and warn his parishioners against 
the wiles of agitators, conspirators, and United Irishmen<— when his Sa- 
turday-evening*8 preparations for Whitsuntide mass and sermon were 
disturbed by the irruption of a troop of Orange yeomanry, who burned 
forthwith his chapel, his house, and some twenty farm-houses in the place. 
Father John Murphy was a quiet man, and a clergyman : but quiet men 
are dangerous when roused, and clergymen have Qieir feelings as well as 
other people. Father John Murphy rebelled that moment, rose against 
these yeomen with a strong party of his parishioners, and two officers of 
the marauders were killed. It was no use preaching " peace, peace," after 
that. The Whitsuntide mass and sermon were left to shift for themselves ; 
the priest and his flock, and a crowd of other fugitives and '^ disaffected 
persons" from the country round, assembled, and encamped for the night on 
Oulard Hill, about ten miles north of Wexford— and the Wexford Rebel- 
lion was begun. 

Early on the morning of Whit-Sunday, the 27th, the news of the rebel 
gathering was brought into Wexford. A party of the Shelmaliere cavalry, 
commanded by Colonel Le Hunte, with upwards of a hundred of the North 
Cork Militia, immediately marched out to Oulard to attack the insurgents. 
The militia ascended the hill on the south side, while the cavalry went round 
to the left, to get behind and prevent a retreat. They did prevent a retreat. 
The insurgents were already in flight, when, finding their escape cut off, they 
rallied, made a desperate charge on their assailants, and piked the whole of 
them in a few minutes — ^the colonel, a Serjeant and three privates only ex- 
cepted. The Shelmaliere cavalry fled back to Wexford. Five killed and 
two wounded were the whole loss of the insurgents. 

The rebellion now grew fast. Flushed with their cheap and easy 
victory, the popular force marched from Oulard northwards, gaining large 
accessions of strength every step of their way. They encamped that night 
on Carrigrew Hill, and re-commenced the war at seven o'clock on Monday 
morning. They first took possession of Camolin, a small town about 
six miles from Oulard, whose loyal inhabitants had taken refuge in Gorey. 
Thence they proceeded, two miles southward, to Ferns, foimd it evacuated 
by the loyalists, and pursued the latter a few- miles furUierto Enniscorthy. 

Gordon, then residing as a Protestant curate near Gorey, gives the following instance of 
this in his " History of the Rebellion" ; — 

** On the morning of the 23rd of May, a labouring man, named Denis M'Daniel, came 
to my house with looks of the utmost consternation and dismay, and confessed to me that 
' he had taken the United Irishman's oath, and had paid for a pike, with which he had not 
yet been furnished, nineteenpence-halfpenny, to one Kilty Smith, who had administered 
the oath to him and many others. While I sent for my eldest son, who was a lieutenant 
of yeomanry, to arrest Kilty, I exhorted M* Daniel to surrender himself to a magistrate 
and make his confession ; but this he positively refused, saying that he should, in that 
case, be lashed to make him pioduce a pike which he had not, and to confess what he 
knew not. I then advised him, as the only alternative, to remain quietly at home, pro- 
mising that if he should be arrested on the information of others, I would represent his 
case to the magistrates. He took my advice, but the fear of arrest and lashing had so 
taken possession of his thoughts, that he could neither eat nor sleep ; and on the morning 
of the 25 th he fell on his face and expired, in a little grove near my house." 


By this time there were seven thousand of them : eight hundred had fire- 
arms, which they had seized at Camolin. About one o'clock they began 
their attack on Enniscorthy, a considerable town and very important 
military position, in the centre of the county. It was vigorously but 
ineffectually defended by a small garrison : the impetuosity, bravery and 
numbers of the insurgents carried everything before them. The royal 
cavalry twice charged the rebel pikemen, but could make no impression on 
their ranks ; and, after a hot fight of four hours, the garrison fled "in a 
piteous plight" to Wexford. The insurgents encamped for the night on 
Vinegar Hill, an eminence overlooking and commanding Enniscorthy.* 
Being now in full military possession of that part of the county, they 
took the tone of command : they sent out scouring parties to bring in all 
the respectable persons they could find as recruits, with menaces of death 
in case of refusal. One of these recruits was Captain John Hay (brother 
to the historian) who had been an officer in the French service. 

We must now return to Wexford. The ruling powers of that town 
and neighbourhood— -little dreaming of the actual possibility of that " le- 
bellion," the talk of which had hitherto been the glib and easy pretext for 
their own cruel and insolent tyranny — carried matters with a high hand 
almost to the last. On Saturday night and Sunday morning, they arrested 
and lodged in the town gaol three of the most respectable gentlemen of the 

* This encampment on Vinegar Hill was kept up during the whole period of the re- 
bellion, as the head- (quarters of the popular army. 

We may here subjoin a few particulars of the insurgents' mode of warfare. The fa- 
vourite and usual popular weapon was the pike, of whose formidable capabilities we have 
already spoken. Cavalry they had none at this period, and of artillery only a few pieces 
of inferior calibre, ill-mounted on the common cars of the country, and ill-served. Their 
fire-arms were few (mostly those taken from the enemy), and generally did little execution 
in the unskilled hands that wielded them. Cloney says (" Personal Narrative," p. 47) : — . 
•* Many of those who became possessors of fire-arms by their courage, were ignorant of 
their use ; and never did children show more eagerness in examining their newly pur* 
chased toys, than did such men in firing with their recently-acquired instruments of 
death." TTxe ShelmaMere marksmen — sharp-shooters from the barony of Shelmaliere, on 
the Wexford coast, where the people subsisted during the winter by shooting sea-fowl — 
were the only expert musketeers the insurgents had. Their great deficiency was in am- 
munition. Gunpowder was scarce, and most difficult to come by. Under the Gun- 
powder Act of 1793, the government had seized on all within their reach, and severe 
penalties visited the unauthorised possession of the commodity. Some of the more 
scientific of the insurgent leaders taught the people to manufacture for themselves ; but 
the quantity was small and the quality poor. Pebbles, and balls of hardened clay were 
a common substitute for bullets. 

The rude encampments of the rebels were always fixed on hill-topsi. Sometimes one 
or two tents, or other such covering, might be provided for the chiefs : the multitude 
either went home by night, or contented themselves with rugs or blankets, lliere was 
little discipline or order in the proceedings of the popular armies. Everything was 
managed on the voluntary principle : the soldiers came and went as they pleased, and 
in many places the camps were almost totally deserted at night. Their cooking was of 
the rudest description : but any cooking was a novelty to Irish peasants. ITie cattle 
were knocked down and slain, pieces of flesh cut off at random, without the nicety of 
previous flaying, and roasted or burned in the fire, hide and all. For saddles, when 
saddles were needed, a convenient substitute was found in bookSf which were placed 
open on the horses* backs, with ropes for girtles and stirrups. The folios found in the 
plunder of gentlemen's houses were in gieat request for this purpose. This rude, gipsy- 
ing mode of warfare was greatly favoured by an uninterrupted continuance of dry and 
warm weather, a circumstance of rare occurrence in Ireland. This they regarded as a 
special interposition of Providence in their favour ; and the popular faith was, that not a 
drop of rain would fall till Ireland was all their own. 


ccunty^-^BAGEKAL Beaxjchamp Harvey, Edward Fitzgerald, and 
John Henry Colclottgh — guilty of no other crime than liberal poli- 
tical opinions.* When the fugitive militaiy arrived from the rout at 
Oulard, the consternation was extreme. Dispatches were sent off to 
Duncannon Fort and Waterford, for reinforcements : and in the meantime 
the heroes of the North Cork Militia — ^with the cowardice and cruelty 
befitting that army, " formidable to every one but the enemy," of which they 
were a worthy corps— proposed to avenge their fallen comrades by mur^ 
dering the prisoners. Mr. Hay says: — 

" Those of the North Cork Militia then in the town vowed ven- 
geance against the prisoners confined in the gaol, particularly against 
Messrs. Harvey, Fitzgerald, and Colclough, so lately taken up; and so 
explicitly and without reserve were these intentions manifested, that I 
myself heard a sergeant and others of the regiment declare that they could 
not die easy^ if they should not have the satisfaction of putting the pri- 
soners in the gaol of Wexford to death, particularly the three gentlemen 
last mentioned. Nor was this monstrous design harboured only by 
the common soldiers ; some of the officers declared the same intentions. I 
communicated all to the gaoler, who informed me that he had himself 
heard the guards on the gaol express their hostile intentions. He was so 
alarmed and apprehensive of their putting their threats into execution, 
that he contrived means to get them out, then locked the door, and deter- 
mined to defend his charge at the risk of his life. He then, with a hu- 
manity and presence of mind that would have become a better station, com- 
municated his apprehensions to all the prisoners, whom he advised to 
remain close in their cells, so as to avoid being shot in case of an actual 
attack. He armed the thi*ee gentlemen, and formed so judicious a plan 
of defence, that, in the event of being overpowered, their lives could not be 
had at a cheap rate. Of this scene I was myself an eye-witness, having 
permission of the high sheriff to pay every attention to my friend and 
relation, Mr. Fitzgerald. * ♦ * A number of soldiers went round 
the gaol several times, as if to reconnoitre, and were overheard threatening 
the prisoners with certain destruction if they could but get in; and I 
verily believe that, had it not been for the indefatigable exertions of the 
gaoler, the prisoners would have been all massacred."f 

When the news £rom Oulard was followed up by inteUigence that the 
rebels were in possession of Enniscorthy, matters looked more serious ; and 
there was no time to be wasted on the amusement — otherwise lawful and 
laudable enough— of butchering prisoners in cold blood. Preparations 
were rapidly made for putting the town in a state of defence. Two hun- 
dred of the principal inhabitants were supplied with arms, and put on 
military duty. The prisoners were visited by the magistrates, and pre- 
vailed on to write to their tenantry and neighbours to dissuade them from 
joining the insurgents. Throughout the night of the 28th, and the follow- 
ing morning, the arrangements for defence went on with an activity which 
showed the estimate that was taken of the formidableness of the enemy. 
On the morning of Tuesday, the 29th, two hundred of the Donegal Militia 

* Mr. Harvey had been busy, the whole of Saturday, in collecting arms from his 
tenantry and neighbours in the baronies of Forth -ind Bargy. He brought them in to 
Wexford, delivered them up to the authorities, and was thrown into gaol. 

t " Insurrection in the County of Wexford,** pp. 85-86. 


marched in from Duncannon Fort, with a promise from General Fawcett, 
who commanded there, to come in person with further reinforcements. 
The thatch was stripped off the houses, to prevent the town from heing 
fired ; and every hoat in the harhour was in requisition to take the women 
and children on board ship. The old town wsdls (which were still stand- 
ing in good preservation) were strongly guarded, the gateways barricaded 
and fortified, and patrols of cavalry constantly kept out reconnoitring. 
Meanwhile, the widows of the miUtiamen killed at Oulard went weeping 
and wailing about the town. In the course of the morning, the bodies of 
the slain were brought in for burial, which, as Mr. Hay says, *' contri- 
buted not a little to dispirit the military in the town." The military in 
the town had a decided taste for that part of their profession which con- 
sisted in burning cabins, butchering prisoners, and whipping and pitch - 
capping croppies ; but when it came to real bodily fighting, with the 
chance of being killed, it was another affair altogether— the ruffian col- 
lapsed into the poltroon. 

Still, with all their preparations, the Wexford authorities did not like 
the aspect of things. They thought negociating would be safer and more 
agreeable than fighting ; and, for the first time in the history of Wexford 
Protestantism, Ihey determined to " try eonciliation." In this, the first 
hour of real danger they had ever known, these proud, hard and cruel 
men were not ashamed to invoke the liberal and Catholic gentry whom 
they had mahgncd and insulted, as intercessors for them with the peasantry 
whom they had fiogged and tortured. The principal gentlemen of the 
town first applied to Mr. Hay — who, as a Catholic of liberal politics, 
might be presumed to have influence with the people — and besought him 
to go out to the insurgents and endeavour to induce them to disperse. 
Mr. Hay was perfectly willing to do this, though the service was one of 
no small peril, provided a magistrate, on whose honour he could rely to 
protect him from slanderous misconstruction, would go with him. But the 
magistrates, one and all, declined the enterprise. It was then considered 
that some of the prisoners might make acceptable and useful negociators ; 
and it was proposed, and eventually agreed on, that Messrs. Harvey, Fitz- 
gerald, and Colclough should be admitted to bail, and that the two latter 
should go out to parley with the rebel army, Harvey remaining in prison 
as a hostage for their honourable return.* 

This mission had results little contemplated by its authors. It strik- 
ingly shows the unpremeditated character of the Wexford insurrec- 
tion, that, on the arrival of Fitzgerald and Colclough at Enniscorthy, 
at four o'clock in the afternoon, they found the insurgents in the act 
of dispersing. They had been debating (without a thought of Wexford) 
whether to attack Koss, or Gorey, or Newtown-Barry ; but there was 
neither concert in their councils nor discipline in their ranks. Every man 
was anxious to go home, and see to the protection of his own house and 
family from the attacks of the Orangemen; and the rebel army had 
already begun disbanding itself. The rebellion, in fact, was over — if it 
had only been let alone. The embassy from Wexford made a difference. 

* Hay says (p. 98) : — " The prisoners were visited by the most respectable gentle- 
men in the town, several requesting -me to accompany them to the prison for the purpose 
of introduction. Indeed, so marked was the attention paid to them on this occaiHon, 
that an indifferent spectator would be led to consider them rather as the governors of the 
town than as prisoners.** 


•* Most of the multitude," says Hay, ** was dispersed, and on the way to 
their several homes, in all directions from Vinegar Hill, when some df 
them met Messrs. Fitzgerald and Colclough (whose arrests were publicly ' 
known) near the village of St. John's, and finding them liberated and sent 
out to them, they were immediately welcomed by a general shout, which, 
communicating from one to another like electricity, it was re-echoed all 
the .way to Enniscorthy, and so on to the top of Vinegar Hill, and thence 
through all the country round. The reverberation of the shouts thus 
widely diffused arrested the attention of the astonished multitude, who 
instantly returned to discover the cause of such sudden exultation ; so 
that when the deputed gentlemen arrivjed on Vinegar Hill, the camp, so 
deserted but a moment before, now became as thronged as ever." Their 
perplexed counsels were now suddenly enlightened, their divided forces 
combined, their fluctuating purposes fixed, their aimless energies concen- 
trated on an object. The offer to parley betrayed, in a most unexpected 
way, the weakness of their enemies, gave them a new sense of their own 
strength and importance, lifted them in an instant to the height of the oc- 
casion — the war-cry was raised, '* To Wexfobd ! — to Wexfobd ! •* 
Fitzgerald was detained in the camp, and Colclough sent back to his 
> employers to report progress. That night the insurgents encamped on 
the Thbee Hocks, an eminence at the extremity of the ^orth mountains, 
about three miles from Wexford. 

The next morning, (Wednesday, the 30th of May) the magistrates and 
military, on the faith of General Fawcett's promise to bring them a 
powerful succour from Duncannon Fort — ^which succour, it was calculated, 
must by that time be within view of the rebel camp — ^ventured on the 
bold measure of a sally ; presuming that the insurgents would be too well 
occupied on the other side of their position to be able to offer any effectual 
resistance to them. But it happened, unfortunately for their plan, that 
General Fawcett and his troops were not on the way to their relief. By a • 
stupid and unlucky blunder, the General and his troops had parted company 
the night before. The General had returned in great haste to Duncannon 
Fort ; the troops had come unwittingly too near the Three Rocks, and 
been cut to pieces in a few minutes, with the exception of one ensign and 
sixteen privates, who were taken prisoners. Two pieces of artillery were 
the trophies of the popular victory. Of all this nothing was known to the 
Wexford magistrates and military, till it was too late* The garrison made 
their sally, and failed ; a colonel of militia was killed, and the troops fled. 
On their return to Wexford a hasty council of war was held, and it was 
determined to evacuate the town. 

The retreat of the garrison from Wexford* was marked by all the 
cowardice and cruelty which habitually characterised the worst army the 
British empire has ever seen. Poor Mr. Harvey had been dragged down 
by the heels out of a chimney in which he had taken refuge from the 
murderous threats of the Orange yeomanry, and had written to the insur- 
gents, on the entreaty of the magistrates, to implore " Christian charity" ^ 
for the lives and properties of tie inhabitants. Deputies had been sent 

♦ They were twelve hundred strong ; enough to have defended the town, fortified as 
it was, against ten times their own number of assailants. — Hay, p. 99. 



out to the camp wkh Harvey's note ; but the militatry could m)t wait for 
the return oi the deputation — they had their own lives to save. No sooner 
had the deputies set out than ^' all the military corps, a part of one only 
excepted, made the best of their way out of the town," leaving the armed 
Catholic inhabitants on duty at their posts. These were " actually igno- 
rant of the flight of the soldiery until the latter had been miles out of 
' the tonm.''* Of the small remnant who were not so fortunate as to escape 
4n time, some disguised themselves in female or other unmilitary attire, 
some placed themselves mider the protection of Mr. Harvey. The valiant 
North Cork Militia retained to the last their instinct for mischief: on leav- 
ing the barracks they set them on Are. After this disgraceful abandon- 
ment of their post, the fugitive garrison made off to Duncannon Fort, com- 
mitting the most abominable outrages by the way, burning peasants^ 
cabins and Catholic chapels, and shooting all the poor creatures they could 
find, women and children not excepted. 

The victorious and exulting insurgents, meanwhile, poured into the town 
by thousands ; released all the prisoners in the gaol ; chose Mr. Harvey to be 
their Commander-in-Chief; pillaged the houses of those who refused to 
give them refreshment and accommodation ; sent parties out in boats, to 
get all the arms, ammunition, and fugitives they could find on board the 
ships in the harbour ; and piked two of their tyrants and oppressors. But 
they did not sack the town ; they did not burn the Protestant church ; they 
did not murder their prisoners; they did not kill women and children; 
they had not one pitch-cap in all their military stores. The night of the 
dOUi was '^ remarkably qtdet, considering all that had happened ;" and the 
next day the victorious army was prevailed on by the inJiabitants to retire 
peaceably from the town. They afterwards separated into two divisions, 
one of which marched westward to TagbnK)n, and the other north- 
ward in the direction of Gorey. A few days afterwards (4th of June) 
the latter division of the insurgent forces, by a bold and rapid movement, 
gained a decisive victory over the royal troops near Gorey, which placed 
them in possession of that town. The whole county of Wexford, with the 
exception of New Ross, Newtown-Barry, and Duncannon Fort, was now 
in the hands of the people. 

Mr. Hay gives a very minute and curious account of the internal state 
of Wexford under the revolutionary rigime : which, as indicative on a 
small scale of what would have taken place over the greater part of Ire- 
.land in the event of the general success of the rebellion, possesses consider- 
able interest and value. 

The insurgents, having complete and undisturbed possession both of 
town and country, soon proceeded to form a sort of government. Captain 
Matthew Keuoh, an officer in his Majesty's army, who had risen from 
the ranks by merit, and who had also distinguished himself as an active and 
upright magistrate for the county until (in 1796) the Lord Chancellor dis- 
missed him for his liberal politics, was elected by acclamation governor 
and military commander of the town, which was divided into wards, each 
of which had its company of guards armed with guns and pikes. There 
was a regular parade, morning and evening, on the Custom-House Quay ; 

♦ Hay, p. 109. 


guards were posted and relieved, and pass- words and counter-signs regu- 
larly given out. At the commencement of the revolution, the town had 
suffered a good deal from plunder, some of the insurgents having remained 
after the withdrawal of the main body, and assumed to themselves, under the 
title of commissaries, the power of levying contributions at discretion for the 
supply of the camps. This nuisance was promptly abated. In order to 
prevent the waste and oppression consequent on this mode of raising the sup- 
plies, the inhabitants took the duty on themselves, and appointed a com- 
mittee of twelve to sec to the equal apportionment of the burden, and the 
faithful application of the contributions. Of the plunder taken by the in- 
surgents on entering the town, a large part was subsequently restored, in 
obedience to a public notice from the new authorities that the discovery of 
property in any other than the lawful owner's hands would be attended 
with severe punishment. The court-house was the depository of goods so 
returned, which the owners recovered on making their claims. 

In regard to economy and finance, the condition of revolutionised Wex- 
ford nearly approached to what is called the " state of nature." Money 
was rarely to be seen, except in the shape of bank-notes; in which shape it 
had ceased to possess any money value^ ^* Great quantities of them were 
inconsiderately destroyed — some in lighting tobacco-pipes, and others used 
as wadding for fire-locks." Nothing passed in the market except specie, 
the possession of which few persons appeared willing to own. ^' But it 
must be mentioned that indeed the necessity of purchasing at market was 
in a great measure superseded ; for, among the various duties of the com- 
mittee, one was that of supplying every person in town with provisions. 
On application to them, every house was furnished with a ticket specifying 
the number of inhabitants, and all persons, even the wives and families of 
those considered the greatest enemies of the people, were indiscriminately 
included; and every person sent with a ticket to the public stores appointed 
for that purpose, received a proportionate quantity of meat, potatoes, and 
other necessaries free of any expense." 

The military and naval departments of the executive government were 
conducted with vigour and efficiency. In addition to the arrangements 
made for the internal security and quiet of the town, a pretty complete 
military organisation was adopted in the country round. Each parish had 
its division of militia, electing its own officers. All persons capable of 
bearing arms were required, upon occasion, to attend the camps, on foot or 
horseback, with pike or gun, according to their means. All the smiths' 
forges, both in town and country, were kept at full work fabricating pike- 
blades ; and timber fit for handles was cut down wherever it was to be 
found. The ornamental was cultivated as well as the useful. The new levies 
** decorated themselves in the most fantastical manner with feathers, tippets, 
handkerchiefs, and all the showy parts of ladies' apparel. Green was the 
most favourite and predominant colour; but on failure of this^ decorations 
of almost any other colour were substituted. And as to their flags or ensigns, 
they were also generally green or of a greenish hue; but, on account of a 
deficiency in this respect, they displayed banners of all colours except 
orange, to which the people showed the most unalterable dislike, aversion, 
and antipathy ; even blue, black, red, and yellow were remarked among 
their banners. Many damsels made an offering of their coloured petticoats 


fbr the public eervice; and, to make these gifts the more acceptable, they 
usually decorated them according to their different fancies."* 

The entrance of the harbour was guarded with three pieces of cannon, 
mounted at the Fort of Roslare, to prevent the enemy from approaching^ 
by sea ; and, for further security, four old sloops were kept ready to be 
scuttled and sunk at a moment's notice, to render the harbour inaccessible 
to ships of war. Four oyster boats were fitted out in the harbour, armed, 
and manned with five-and- twenty men each, to cruise outside the bay ; 
and these, from time to time, made very useful and seasonable seizures of 
small coasting vessels, laden with oats, potatoes, and other provisions. On 
the fourth day of the insurgents* occupation of the town (2nd June) this 
naval activity and vigilance found its reward in one of the most important 
acquisitions effected by the people during the whole campaign — ^the cap- 
ture, namely, of Lord Kii76SBosott6h, Colonel of the North Cork Militia, 
with two of his officers. His lordship, ignwant or incredulous of recent 
events, was proceeding by water from Arklow to Wexford, for the purpose 
of joining his regiment. His boat was hailed and taken by one of the 
armed oyster vessels, and the passengers were brought prisoners into 
Wexford. This capture became, in the event, the salvation of the town 
from the worst horrors of war. 

The new order of things was marked by a vast munber of extraordi- 
narily sudden religious conversions, although (the fact is honourable to 
the people and their clergy) it does not appear that such conversions were 
at all necessary for the personal safety of the neophytes. The war wits 
not a religious war, though the Orange bigots and tyrants had done their 
worst to make it such. During the whole Wexford insurrection, only one 
Protestant church was destroyed (notwithstanding repeated and continual 
attacks by the military on the Catholic chapels), and the town church of 
Wexford sustained no other indignity than the cowardly absenteeism and 
apostacy of its own congregation. But the Protestant gentlemen and ladies 
of Wexford could not understand this ; they determined that at any rate 
they would err on the safe side, and lost no time in giving in their adhesion 
to the new Popish ascendency that was to be. Broad and strong, if not 
deep, was the tide of proselytism which then set in towards the ** damnable 
and idolatrous*' ancient faith of Christendom. The Catholic chapels were 
crowded as they never had been crowded before ; and the proselytes — as 
is the way with proselytes — were many degrees more zealous than the old- 
established believers.f Hosts of converts came flocking in to the priests 
for baptism, to an extent which sadly embarrassed those reverend and ex- 
cellent persons. To give the sacrament to such hypocrites would be pro- 

* Mr. Hay adds — " Several loyal ladies, too, both in town and country, displayed 
their taste in richly and fancifully ornamenting ensigns, to ingratiate themselves with 
the people ; but many of them not having time to perfect their chef d'cmvres before 
the insurrection was suppressed, have since thought it prudent, I suppose, to destroy 
these and the like specimens of elegant accomplishment, at which I had opportunities 
of observing ihem earnestly employed during the short-lived period of popular triumph." 

+ " The epithet of craw-thumper, opprobriously applied to Catholics for contritely 
striking their breasts at their devotions, was never more strongly exemplified than by 
these converts. Catholics strike their breasts gently on certain occasions, and with the 
right hand alone; but Protestants who attended at mass in these times generally con- 
tinued to strike themselves vehemently with both hands almost during the whole service" — 
Hay, p. 144. 


Tailing it : to wiUihold it was to leave the poor cowardly creatures in fear 
for their lives. At first they tried to evade the application, on the ground 
t^hat the Church does not deem it necessary to re-bapti«e Christians of 
other denominations, who have already received the rite in due form, even 
sit heretical hands. But the zeal of the converts was not to be put off 8o« 
It was discovered that the Church might, and sometimes did, re-baptise 
4:onditionally, by way of rectifying any error or supplying any deficiency 
in the previous administration of the sacrament; and so conditional hap- 
tism became the order of the day. " A curious circumstance," says our 
historian, " occurred in Wexford at this time, which eventually produced a 
gi^at number of conditional baptisms. A young lady, who on first appli- 
cation failed of persuading a Catholic priest to confer on her the favour of 
baptism, had the diligence and address afterwards to discover that the Pro- 
testant minister who had undertaken to perform that ceremony in her in- 
fancy had only filliped or sprinkled the water at her with his finger, and so 
it was within the limits of probability that a drop might not have reached 
lier head so as to form an ablution. Being very ingenious and persevering 
in her arguments, so as to appear capable of puzzling the nicest casuist, she 
at last made out her own a doubtful case, and was accordingly quieted by 
conditional baptism. When the particulars of this transaction got abroad, 
the solicitations to the Catholic clergy for the boon of conditional baptism 
became considerably more frequent, the applicants quoting this recent pre- 
cedent, and adducing the hearsay evidence and far-fetched recollection of 
grandmothers, grand-aunts, and other grave and venerated relatives, with 
a long train of minute circumstances, to prove a similarity of cases, and 
claiming on this account an equal consideration." So much for Irish Pro- 
testantism, after a century of penal code. 

The great subject of anxiety, during the occupation of Wexford by the 
people, was the personal safety of the prisoners, who were in almost con- 
stant peril from the passions of a mob of exasperated fugitives and unat- 
tached camp-followers. Yet on the whole, and until they were driven 
absolutely frantic by the savage brutalities of th^ir enemies, the people 
behaved well — ^better, immeasurably, than their oppressors had done, and 
were doing, elsewhere. Of the *' Wexford Bridge Massacre" we shall 
epeak in its place ; but we may note here that, during the first fortnight 
after the sudden and startling success of the popular arms, the efforts of 
the principal Catholic inhabitants and their clergy (who, with scarcely an 
exception, behaved admirably from first to last) were generally successful 
in'restraining the people from bloody reprisals on their enemies. The 
effort was often difficult — sometimes perilous — but usually successful. Lord 
Kingsborough, Colonel of the abhorred North Cork Militia, reputed to be 
the inventor of the pitch-cap, and known for a merciless flagellant, though 
often menaced, had not a hair of his head hurt during nearly three weeks 
that he was a prisoner in the hands of the people. 

On the evening of the 4th of June, the western division of the popular 
army, led by their Commander-in-Chief, Mr. Harvey, encamped on Corbet 
Hill, within a mile of the town of New Ross, which was strongly gar- 
risoned by twelve hundred men, besides yeomanry, under the command of 
General Johnson. They determined to attack the town the next morning. 
The entei prise was well deserving of their utmost efforts. A more im- 
portant place there was not in all the county ; its possession would open 


a communication for them with Waterfordy Tipperary, and Kilkenny — and 
all Munster would he in arms within a week. 

At hreak of day on the 5th, Mr. Harvey dispatched an officer to the 
enemy's lines, with a flag of truce and the following summons to the com- 
mander of the garrison to surrender : — 

*' Sib — ^As a friend to humanity, I request you will surrender the town 
" of Ross to the Wexford forces now assembled against that town. Your 
'' resistance will but provoke rapine and plunder, to the ruin of the most 
*' innocent. Flushed with victory, the Wexford forces, now innumerable 
" and irresistible, will not be controlled if they meet with any resistance. 
" To prevent, therefore, the total ruin of all property in the town, I urge 
'* you to a speedy surrender, which you will be forced to do in a few hours 
*^ with loss and bloodshed, as you are surrounded on all sides. Your 
'* answer is required in four hours. Mr. Furlong carries tliis letter, and will 
" bring the answer. " I am, sir, &c. &c., 

"B. B. Habvey. 

'* Camp at Corbet Hill, half past three o'clock, morning, 
"June 5th, 1798." 

Mr. Furlong was shot dead, the moment he and his flag of truce ap- 
proached the place. 

This atrocious act was witnessed by the division of the popular army 
encamped on the side of the hill towards the town. They were instantly 
ungovernable with rage. Disregarding the orders of their officers and the 
plan of their general for a simultaneous attack on the town at three dif- 
ferent points (in which their great superiority of numbers would have come 
into full play), they rushed down headlong on the ehemy, without waiting 
till the other two divisions of their force were ready for action. The onset 
was tremendous — everything gave way before them. In a moment they 
dislodged the outer lines of the royalists, burst through horse, foot, and ar- 
tillery, and drove the broken and disordered ranks into the town. There 
they followed up their success '* hot foot," pressed the enemy from post to 
post, and from street to street through the town, and hunted them over the 
wooden bridge on the Barrow into the county of Kilkenny. The town was 
their own, and with it an opening into Munster, where their ranks would 
be recruited by myriads — ^if they could but have kept themselves sober. 

But this was precisely the one thing which Irishmen in those days could 
not do. They were no sooner masters of the town than all discipline was at 
an end. The exhortations of their leaders to pursue and complete their 
victory were unheeded — they began plundering and drinking, without limit 
and without control. Meanwhile, the royal forces, finding themselves not 
pursued, slackened in their retreat, halted, rallied, and re-entered the town, 
eager to redeem their lost military honour. The feeble efforts of intox- 
icated men could make but an ineflectual resistance : the rebels fled to their 
camp, such of them as were capable of the exertion. Even yet the battle was 
not over. At this crisis, a Wexford youth of thirteen, of the name of Lett, 
who had stolen away from his mother to join Harvey's army on the march 
to Corbet Hill, snatched up a standard, and calling out " Follow me who 
dare !'' rushed down the hill.* Two or three thousand pikemen, at once 
sobered by their recent panic and exasperated by its consequences, rapidly 

* Harrington's " Historic Memoirs," vol. ii., p. 274. 



followed him. In an instant Lett was at tlie gate, and headed the pikemen 
in a furious attack on the fatigued and astonished garrison. 

The conflict was now terrific. The royal artillery, which was excel- 
lently well served, made fearful havoc in the rebel ranks; but the daunt- 
less men of Wexford charged home to the very cannons* mouths, piked the 
•cuinoniers, and bore off the guns in triumph. A second time were the 
royal troops routed from the town. And a second time did the triumphant 
assailants commit the astounding folly for which they had paid so dearly 
already. They began plundering and drinking as madly as before. The 
garrison again rallied, and returned to the scene of action. By this time 
the town was on fire in several places, and the contending armies fought 
hand to hand and foot to foot, amid the blaze and crackle of the conflagra- 
tion. The conflict long continued doubtful ; but discipline, sobriety, and 
excellent light artillery eventually overbore the reckless impetuosity of 
drunkenness and despair. At two in the afternoon, the Wexford army 
finally retreated from the post which they had twice won by hard fighting, 
and twice lost by hard drinking, leaving the royalists masters of the town, 
and some hundred houses in flames. They encamped for the night on 
Carrick- Byrne Rock, a hill about five miles east of Ross.* 

The worst horrors of war followed, as usual, the victory of the king's 
troops. To the insurgent stragglers found in the re-captured town no 
^^uarter was given ; and numbers of the inhabitants, whom the burning of 
iJieir houses had driven out into the streets, were shot and bayoneted with- 
out mercy. Not a man escaped the rage of the soldiery who was not in 
military uniform. The work of blood and fire went on again the next day. 
Houses crowded with defenceless fugitives were set on fire, and guarded 
while burning, that none of the inmates might escape. '' Some of these,'* 
8ays Hay, were '^ so thronged that the corpses of the suffocated within 
them could not faU to the ground, but continued crowded together in an 

* In Ireland, even, civil war has comedy in it side by side with tragedy. Thomas Cloney, 
who was present at this engagement of Nevf Ross, mentions, as *'on^ofthe curiouB 
movements of the day,*' that 

** About half a dozen respectable persons, of that class termed middlemen, and jolly 
jold topers, who were at all times fitter to be counted among the votaries of Bacchus than 
those of Mars, early in the day had a cask of port wine conveyed down from Corbet Hill to 
a well-protected spot under the shelter of a very high ditch, and within a very short dis- 
tance of the town. Here they commenced operations with great zeal and ardour. After 
taking a few bumpers out of wooden noggins (the vessels generally used by our pea- 
santry), they occasionally advanced in warlike array to the Three-Bullet Qate, first as- 
certaining that the combat was going on at a good distance ; and here they inquired, 
with gravity and becoming authority, * How (fie day was going ?* Evincing their zeal 
by asking * how goes the day, hoys V they regularly returned to the wine-cask with seem- 
ing indifference to the fate of Ireland, now in the balance ; for it must be allowed that 
on our success or failure that day the futu^re connexion of this country with England in a 
great degree depended. If we had succeeded, the way was open to Waterford and 
Duncanoon Fort; both would have been hastily evacuated, and the province of Munster 
at once in arms. — "Personal Narrative," p. 41. 

The whole army, up to the commander-in-chief, seems to have carried joviality beyond 
the limits of prudence and military discipline. The night before, Mr. Harvey and his 
principal officers had taken up their quarters at the house of Corbet Hill, where, says 
Hay, " being regaled with an excellent supper and exquisite wines, they were so well 
pleased with their cheer, and so far forgot their prudence as commanders, that they had 
jscarcely time to fall asleep since the moment of their retirement, until they were roused 
by the orders they had given in their sober moments to commence the attack at the break 
of day," 


upright posture until they were taken out to be interred." The same his- 
torian adds, that officers *' were not only present, but promoted and en- 
couraged these deeds of dreadful enormity." 

In the battle of New Ross, scarcely a third part of the Corbet Hill army 
had been actually engaged. While the first division, too impetuous to 
wait for the word of military command, rushed wildly on the enemy, and 
carried slaughter and dismay through their ranks, the rest of the insurgents 
— seized, together with their leaders, with one of those unexplained and in- 
explicable panics of not unfirequent occurrence in this war — ^were already 
flying in all directions to their several homes, and bearing with them as they 
went the tidings of a total defeat. It was on this occasion, by a party of 
these runaways, that one of those base and ferocious acts of cruelty was 
perpetrated, by which the rebels occasionally lowered themselves nearly to 
the same level of cowardly ruffianism with dieir enemies. At the village 
of ScuLi.AB06TJ£, about five miles from Boss, was a bam recently used by 
the insurgents as a gaol, and at that time crowded with prisoners. To this 
ScuUabogue bam the fugitives from Corbet Hill (having overpowered the 
guards, who resisted as long as they could) set fire, and burned every 
human creature confined within its walls. The number of victims has been 
variously stated at from eighty to nearly two hundred — ^the former being 
probably the nearest to the truth. It was a wicked, savage thing to do : 
but the king*s troops, and the king's officers and magistrates did, or caused 
and suffered to be done, as bad, and worse things, every day. Pitch-cap 
and triangle tortures, half-hangings, picketings, house-burnings, free- 
quarters, peasant-shootings by the wayside, wholesale military butcheries 
— ^that these things, going on for weeks and months together, should pro- 
duce at last a Scullabogue-bam massacre, is horrible, certainly, but scarcely 
marvellous. Most things that are done in this world, good and bad, have seed 
in them, and yield fruit after their kind. Nay, do not the very laws of " ci-, 
vilised warfare" recognise a legality and morality in reprisals ? It is but fair 
to add, that when the army from New Ross reached their encampment at 
Carrick-Byrae that evening, and became acquainted with this barbarous bu- 
siness, they loudly expressed their abhorrence of it. Every attempt was 
made by Harvey to discover its perpetrators, but in vain.* He imme- 
diately issued a proclamation, concluding in these terms : — 

*' Any person or persons who shall take upon them to kill or murder 
" any person or prisoners, burn any house, or commit any plunder, without 
*' special written orders from the Commander-in-Chief, shall suffer death. 

*' B. B. Hjlrvey, Commander-in-Chief." 

This part of the transaction was certainly not imitated, from the proceed- 
ings of the king's troops, officers, and magistrates.! 

♦ Taylor, the ascendtecy historian, says " He turned from the scene with horror and 
wrung his hands, and said to those about him, * Innoceot people were burned there 
as ever were born ; your conquests for liberty are at an end.' He said to a friend he fell 
in with, with respect to his own situation, * I see now the folly of embarking in this 
business with these people : if they succeed, I shall be murdered by them; if they are ek- 
feated, I shall be hanged." 

t The following specimen, likewise, of a rebel proclamation may bear a comparison, 
in point of temper and humanity, with the most decorous of those issued by the consti- 
tuted authorities : — 

" At this eventful period all Europe must admire, and posterity wiU read with asto- 
nishment, the heroic acts achieved by a people strangers to military tactics, and having 


The repulse which the insurgents sustained at New Boss scarcely 
amounted to a defeat ; nor was the successful defence of that town by the 
royalists followed by the usual results of victory. The British troops 
maintained their ground, but they did no more. The assailants were 
allowed to retreat unmolested; and so little apprehensive were the latter of 
annoyance from the New Ross garrison, that they shortly afterwards 
formed an encampment on Lacken Hill, only two miles from that place. 
There, and in their other camps, the people actively recruited their forces 
for new efforts. Mr. Harvey was so bitterly blamed (it does not appear 
with justice) for the event of the attack on New Ross, that he resigned 
his command and returned to Wexford.* His successor was the Reverend 
FHiiiiF Roche, a Catholic priest, a man abundantly gifted by nature with 
all the qualities that the post required— of intrepid personal courage, in- 
domitable firmness, a quick and true military eye, immense physical strength 
and power of enduring privation and fatigue, great tact for managing the 
rude masses he had to rule, and a generous, humane heart with it all. 

The efforts of the insurgents were now directed northward. The 
county (with the exceptions already noted) was all their own. Geneial 
Fawcett was shut up in Duncannon Fort, and evinced no disposition to 
leave it ; Philip Roche and the Lacken-Hill camp kept guard over General 

few professional commanders. But what power can resist men fighting for liberty ? In the 
moment of triumph, my countrymen, let not your victories be tarnished with any wanton act of 
cruelty. Many of those unfortunate men now in prison were not your enemies from 
principle; most of them, compelled by necessity, were obliged to oppose you. * « « 
To promote a union of brotherhood and affectum among our countrymen of all religious per" 
suasions has been our principal object. We have sworn in the most solemn manner — we 
have associated for this laudable purpose, and no power on earth shall shake our re- 

"Wexford, June 7, 1798." "Edward Rochb. 

* Barrington, who knew Harvey well, speaks of him (perhaps too contemptuously) as 
altogether unfit for the office of a rebel generalissimo. " His figure was diminutive, weak, 
and meagre, his voice tremulous, his dress squalid, his mind as feeble as his body, and 
as undecided as his stambling movements. As an officer he had neither skill, system, 
nor energy. He was a Protestant barrister of fortune, good tempered, and of good 
private character, and was selected from being lord of Bargy Castle, and of considerable 
demesnes in the county of Wexford. Of personal courage he had sufficient, but of that 
heroic bravery which urges men to military action he was altogether unsusceptible. His 
wandering eye could fix on nothing. His wretched mind shrank within itself from the 
responsibility he had encountered."—." Historic Memoirs." 

On returning to Wexford, Harvey took the post of president of the revolutionary 
committee for the government of the town. The difficulties and perils of his position 
are feelingly described in the following letter to a Mr. Glascott, written at this time : — 

" Dear Sir — I received your letter, but what to do for you I know not. I from my 
heart wish to piotect all property — lean scarce protect myself ; and, indeed, my situation 
is much to be pitied, and distressing to myself. I took my present situation in hopes 
of doing good and preventing mischief; my trust is in Providence. I acted always an 
honest, disinterested part, and had my advice been taken by those in power, the present 
mischief would never have arisen. If I can retire to a private station again, I will imme- 
diately. Mr. Tottenham's refusing to speak to the gentleman I sent to Ross, who was 
madly shot by the soldiers, was very unfortunate ; it has set the people mad with rage, 
and there is no restraining them. The person I sent in had private instructions to pro- 
pose a reconciliation, but God knows where this business will end ; but, end how it will, 
the good men of both-parties will be inevitably ruined. 

" I am, with respect, yours, 

" B. B. Harvey." 

See Madden, vol. i., p. 424. 


Johnson and the garrison of New Ross, who were by no means inclined to 
recommence hostilities; and the powerful central camp of Vinegar Hill was 
a sufficient check on the movements of the royal troops in Newtown-Barry. 
The town of Wexford needed no defence, but only a good civil police. 
Accordingly, the popular leaders felt themselves free to adopt a wider 
range of military operations, of which the camp at Gorey, in the north of 
the county, was to be the centre. Their object was a bold one — ^the boldest 
and most important, by far, that had yet been contemplated. It was nothing 
less than to take the town of Arklow, in the county of Wicklow, form a 
junction with their friends in Wicklow, and march on Dublin. Arklow, 
the only place of any strength between them and the metropolis, seemed to 
offer itself as an easy conquest. The garrison were under a thousand, 
mostly irregulars : an old dilapidated barrack was their only fortification, 
four pieces of artillery were their only ordnance, and a party of Ancient 
Britons and a few yeomen their only cavalry. The popular army by this 
time was thirty thousand strong; and Wicklow had thousands more, ready 
to reinforce them. Fortunately for the government, warning was received 
in time to arrest this most formidable movement ; the biographer of Grattan 
informs us by what means: — 

" Two of the chiefs had rode early one morning to a respectable and 
wealthy farmer in the county of Wexford, in order to induce him to join 
them. During their conversation they disclosed their plan of advance 
along the coast of Dublin. Except at Arklow, there was scarce any strong- 
hold on the line ; the way lay open along the sea, and the march upon 
' Dublin would have been easily accomplished, as the military were mostly 
in a distant part of the country, and the insurgent force coming from 
Wexford exceeded 30,000 men. The brother of the person from whom I 
got the anecdote, happening to be present, concealed himself in the farmer's 
house, through fear of detection, and overheard the conversation. On the 
departure of the chiefs and their party, he wrote out a statement of the 
occurrence, secured it inside his shoe, and proceeded with every expedition 
across the country, till he delivered it to the next military commander. 
Upon the receipt of this intelligence in Dublin, every possible exertion was 
made, and every sort of soldier, on every sort of vehicle, was dispatched 
from the metropolis."* 

The reinforcements arrived in time. When the Wexford forces marched 
from Gorey to the attack (9th of June), they found Arklow powerfully gar- 
risoned by sixteen hundred effective men, well prepared and well posted, 
in high spirits and perfectly fresh for action, under the command of Ge- 
neral Needham. The engagement that ensued was one of the most re- 
gular of the whole campaign. The insurgents had nearly as many fire- 
arms as the royalists, though they were poor, as usual, in anmiunition, and 
had only some small pieces of artillery. The battle-field was a plain on 
the south side of the town, where the British infantry were strongly posted, 
with two cannon at each wing. The rebel musketeers were drawn up ex- 
actly parallel with the enemy, defended by a low hedge in front. Their 
thousands of pikemen were stationed on an eminence a few hundred yards 
distant, ready to rush down on the royal forces and extermiijate them oxx 

* " Life of Grattan," by his Son, vol. iv., p. 395. 


tlie first sign of their giving way. The battle began as regularly as between 
two disciplined armies. An unintermitted fire was kept up for some hours 
on both sides, but with little execution on either : the insurgents had not 
yet learned to aim well, and- they were, on their side, protected by the 
liedge. At length they made one of their vigorous onsets, drove in the 
enemy's outposts, pushed some luckless yeomanry cavalry into the river, 
dismounted one of the guns, and killed tiie gunner. The British officers 
-were alarmed. If the rebels' ammunition lasted, and the pikemen charged, 
they could not keep the field. General Needham and most of the officers 
began to think of a retreat ; but Colonel Skerrit, of the Dumbarton Fen- 
cibles, the second in command, positively refused to retire. Victory was 
dubious, but flight would be instant and certain destruction : a rush of the 
pikemen would annihilate the whole of them, and quarter was out of the 
question on either side. The ammunition of the royal army began to fail. 
But '* fortunately," says Sir Jonah Barrington — ^whether fortunately, or 
unfortunately, the present historian leaves an open question — '' that of the 
rebels was first exhausted." Nothing now remained but to charge with 
the pike. The charge was gallantly led by the Reverend Michaei. 
Mttkphy,* in a determined effort to gain the interior of the town. The fate 
of the day still wavered, when Murphy fell by a cannon shot in the front of 
his line. The assailants now retreated, but without precipitation, and the 
garrison had no desire to pursue them. The latter retired to their bar- 
racks, and the insurgents to their camp at Gorey. 

" Thus ended," says Barrington, '^ a battle by no means the most san- 
guinary, but certainly one of the most important of the rebellion. Had 
Sie rebels succeeded, they would have been reinforced, every mile of their 
march to Dublin, by the disaffected population of Wexford and Wicklow. 
Kildare, Meath, and Westmeath were in arms, and the capital itself had 
thirty thousand organised rebels within its walls. * * * * At a very 
moderate computation, there were in Wexford and Wicklow at least fifty 
thousand effective insurgents, either imder arms or prepared to take arms 
had their measures continued to be successful."! 

The march oiTDublin was prevented, and the growth of the rebellion 
checked ; but that was all. The battle of Arklow, like that of New Ross, 
was essentially and practically a drawn battle — with no other result than 
the maintenance of the status in quo. The Wexford forces kept their 
camps, and the government forces kept their two or three garrison towns. 
A savage partisan warfare ensued ; plundering and burning went on in all 
directions ; all stragglers were shot or piked ; and the most ferocious cruel- 
ties were practised on both sides : but each party seemed afraid of the 

* Father Michael Murphy was another of those Catholic clergymen whom Orangeism 
turned into rebel generals. His chapel was wrecked, his person threatened, and he 
zebelled to save his life. Both John and Michael Murphy had previously, says Hay, 
been ** remarkable for their exhortations and exertions against the system of United 

The Protestant clergyman, Mr. Gordon, says, in his <* History of the Rebellion," that 
after the battle of Arklow some soldiers of the regiment of Ancient Britons *' cut open 
the dead body of Father Michael Murphy, took out his heart, roasted his body, and oiled 
their boots with the grease which dripped ftom it." 

t "Historic Memoirs," vol. ii., p. 271. 


other, and seyeral days elapsed without any engagement of consequence.* 
It now became evident to the government that the rebellion could be 
crushed only by an overwhelming force of the best troops they had, con- 
centrated at once on the very heart of the insurgents' power. This was 
the camp on Yinbgar Hill, which the people had carefully maintained 
in a permanent state o( defence ever since their conquest of Enniscorthy, 
on.the28thof May. It was the largest encampment they had in the 
county ; its central position rendered it of peculiar importance ; and par- 
ticular care was taken to keep it always provided with an ample force, 
which the British commanders had not on any occasion ventured to attack. 
On Vinegar Hill, accordingly, the government troops were now gradually 
concentrated. From the 1 8th to tlie 20th of June, the preparations went 
rapidly on for a combined assault on this important post. General Dundas 
marched to its vicinity from Baltinglass, in Wicklow ; General Loftus, from 
Tullow, in Carlow ; General Needham, from Arklow ; Generals Johnsou 
and Eustace, from New Ross ; and General Sir James Duff, from New- 
town-Barry ; committing the customary burnings, plunderings, and devas- 
tations by the way, but carefully avoiding at the same time any serious en- 
gagement with parties of the insurgents. Twenty thousand men, amply 
equipped and furnished, with a large train of artillery, and GENESiLC 
Lak£ for Commander-in-Chief, were the force destined to surround the 
encampment of Vinegar Hill and the town of Enniscorthy, and finish the 
war at a blow. 

The Wexford insurgents now, for the first time since their early suc- 
cesses, had to act on the defensive. Every effort was made by them to 
strengthen their position. On the 1 9th, General Edwakd Roche (a bro- 
ther of Philip Roche) -went from Vinegar Hill to Wexford to obtain re- 
inforcements ; and on the same day his brother came in from the Three 
Rocks, to recruifrand supply that camp. The town was in a dreadful state 
of terror and excitement. Crowds of exasperated and horrified fugitives 
from all parts of the county pressed in every hour, reporting the cruelties 
and devastations committed by the several divisions of the British troops 
on their march, of which the blazing tokens were already visible from the 
Three-Rocks camp. " The general conflagration," say* Hay, *' was as 
progressive as the march of the troops." English ships of war likewise 
were seen off the coast ; several gun-boats blockaded the harbour ; the fate 
of , Wexford was plainly near its crisis. The populace, irritated at the 
supineness of the inhabitants, who had never yet left their homes nor seen 
a battje, vowed the destruction of the town, unless all its armed men re- 
paired forthwith to the camps, to bear a part in the common cause. 

Early on the morning of the 20th, the drum beat to arms ; and all the 
armed inhabitants of Wexford marched out to the Three Rocks, except the 
guards appointed to protect the gaol, then crowded with prisoners : except, 
likewise, a certain Captain Dixon, master of a Wexford trading vessel, 

* ** While the one party was burning and destroying what they considered enemy's 
property in one quarter, the other, actuated by revenge, was committing like devastation 
in another; and it would seem, as if by pre-concertion, that both moved in different di- 
rections on every particular day of excursion ; so that the only warfare between them was 
An apparent strife who should cause the greatest desolation, or who should appear most 
eager to destroy what was spared by the othclr, so that the state of the country was truly 
lamentable." — Hay, p. 1 86. 


and some three or four score of drunken ruffians who regarded him as their 
leader. This man Dixon, of insolent manners and ferocious character, had 
already committed one murder, and had occasioned the inhabitants infinite 
alarm by his savage instigations to the populace to butcher the prisoners.* 
His absence from the camp this morning was a sign that mischief was in- 
tended. Mr. Hay, having met him and discovered his purpose to remain 
in the town, ordered him, in the name of the Commander-in-Chief, to repair* 
instantly to the Three Rocks. The fellow refused, Mr. Hay remonstrated 
with him for keeping his men in the town in violation of the general orders : 
he replied that he detained them with a view to supply the place of the 
gctol-guards^ who had never been in any battle, and who ought to be made 
to take their turn with the rest. Hay thereupon galloped off to the camp, 
to procuie a detachment of sober, trusty men to keep Dixon and his gang in 
awe. On his return to the town, four hours afterwards, he found it swarm- 
ing with vast crowds of fugitives, driven in from the country by the march 
of the royal troops. ** These were," he says, " continually relating their 
misfortunes, the cruelties they suffered, and the hardships they endured, to 
those with whom they took refuge ; which roused and irritated the populace 
to such a pitch of fury as admits not of description, and of which none but 
an eye-witness can have an adequate idea. All entreaties and remonstrances 
to sooth or calm the exasperated multitude were in vain : however, con- 
tinuing still on horseback, I endeavoured to address, explain, excuse, and 
expostulate, and in the course of these attempts many pikes were raised 
against me, and several guns and pistols cocked and pointed at me, and 
vengeance vowed against me as an Orangeman ; for they vociferated that I 
had distinguished myself by no other feat but activity in protecting their 
enemies, the Orangemen ; that I had never attended their camps, or I 
would be a judge of their miseries by the view of general desolaj:ion. One 
man would roar out, that I had not been flogged as he had been ; another 
pathetically related that his house had been burned, and he had been 
driven to beggary with his whole family, and he would have the death of 
the person that injured him; a third lamented the death of his father, 
another that of his brother, others of their chUdren ; and the appeal was 
made to me, to decide on all their various sufferings and misfortunes ; while 

* The following occurrence had taken place a few days before : — 
" The town of Wexford, being in a state of the utmost tranquillity, was all .at once 
thrown into the most violent confusion and alarm by a great cavalcade coming into it 
over the bridge, preceded by Captain Dixon and his wife, who lode ..through the streets ; 
while he, with gesture and expression the most outrageous, exhibited a. Jire^creen^ 
ornamented with various emblematical figures representing some heathen gods, and 
with orange bordering, fringe, and tassels, which he represented as the insignia of an 
Orange-lodge ; and the figures he tremendously announced as the representations of the 
tortures which the Catholics were to suffer from Orangemen ; calling on the people to 
take signal vengeance, as he produced to theni, he paid, the discovery of the whole plot, 
found at Artramont, the seat of Colonel Le Hunte. It is impossible to describe the fury 
of the peo]de on this occasion, roused to the most violent pitch in an instant, and only 
to be accounted for on the principle of their supposition, or rather persuasion, of their 
intended extermination, which the sight of anything orange awakened in the most 
sensitive manner. When Captain Dixon had, by this infernal and tumultuous conduct, 
assembled almost all the inhabitants of the town (whose frenzy, on seeing the orange 
. ornaments, and hearing his assertions most desperately vociferated, it is impossible to 
describe), he proceeded directly to the house wherein Colonel, Le Hunte lodged, dragged* 
him out and marched him down to the gaol, amidst afurious and enraged mob, by whom 
it is wonderful that his life was spared at the'instant." — Hay, pp. 197-198. 


they percieTeringly declared they only wanted to be avenged of those who 
had actually done them wrong ; and I was asked, if similarly circumstanced, 
would I not take revenge for such injuries as theirs ? "* 

The appeal was a perplexing one ; but Mr. Hay met it by urging that, 
at all events, no man — not even a house-burning magistrate of the name 
of Turner, against whom they were particularly clamorous — should be 
punished without a trial ; and he spoke to them of the *' indefeasible laws 
of God." These poor people had, however, a wild, barbarous notion of 
their own that the lex talionia was one of the indefeasible laws of God. 
Good Mr. Hay was answered by a universal cry, *' What trial did we or 
our friends and relations obtain^ when some were hanged or shot, and 
others whipped, or otherwise tortured, our houses and properties burned 
and destroyed, and ourselves hunted like mad dogs ?" Yet he did succeed 
at last, with great difficulty and no small personal danger, in procuring the 
appointment of a tribunal of seven, sworn to try the prisoners justly ac* 
cording to the evidence ; and then found it prudent to retire, and leave the 
popular court-martial to do its work. 

The tribunal of seven sat, accordingly, in a small room adjoining the 
gaol. But the result of their adjudications was far from satisfactory to 
9ie murderously inclined of the populace. A majority of four to three 
were resolute for mercy, and would not capitally convict a man of the pri- 
soners. Dixon and his comrades, overruled and foiled at every point, 
were about to leave the place, and all might have ended well, when, " as 
ill fate would have it," two of the prisoners, of the names of Jackson and 
O'Connor, turned informers, threw themselves on their knees to Dixon, 
acknowledged themselves Orangemen, and imdertook to give information, 
provided their lives were spared. The populace now became ungovern- 
able. It was voted by acclamation that the business should be gone on 
with at once ; the evidence of the informers .would be trial and conviction 
enough, without further formalities. The first man whom these wretches 
denounced was instantly dragged out, and shot at the gaol door. 

The work of blood then went on fast. Eighteen prisoners, with whom 
it was intended to begin, were marched out from the gaol under a strong 
guard, headed by Dixon and flanked by the two Orange informers, and 
more were sent for as they were wanted. A sort of revolutionary tribunal, 
under Dixon's presidency, sat in a billiard-room on the quay. A word 
from the informers was evidence ; evidence was conviction ; and conviction 
was death. The victims were led down to the bridge, amid loud cheers, 
" in successive parcels of from ten to twenty, with horrible solemnity, each 
parcel surrounded by its guard of butchers, and preceded by a black flag 
marked with a white cross."f On arriving at the place of execution, ap- 

♦Hay, p. 211. 

t Plowden'B " Historical Review," vol. ii.. p. 748. 

Much has been said and speculated about this " black flag, marked with a white 
cross" — other accounts say a Uood-red cross ; and the lively imagination of some of ihe as- 
cendency historians has devised a horrible significance for the initials " M. W. S.*' in- 
scribed on the other side of this portentous banner — ^i.e., as they say, Murder Without Sm. 
All which, of course, very satisfactorily proves that the rebeUion of 1798 was neither 
more nor less than the explosion of a Popish plot, and that the Catholic religion incul- 
cates the sinlessness and meritoriousness of murdering Protestants. 

This pleasant Protestant faith has, however, been rudely assailed by writers fully equal, 
in point of credibility, to the best of the tribe of Musgraves and Taylors. On the black- 


peal was made to the multitude — Did any one know any good action of the 
intended viclim, sufficient to save his life ? In default of a satisfactory 
answer (a few were saved by the bold and humane interference of by- 
standers), execution immediately followed. Some were shot ; the majority 
were piked, with circumstances of great barbarity ; and the bodies thrown 
over the bridge. For some hours this horrible business went on ; and it 
would, for anything that appears to the contrary, have continued till every 
prisoner in the town was slaughtered, but for the courageous interference 
of a Catholic clergyman and a rebel officer : — 

" The Rev. Mr. Corrin," says Hay, '« who had been absent from the 
tovni the whole of the day on parochial duty, had but just returned when 
he was sent for by Mr. Kellett, then on his defence at the bridge. Thither 
the reverend gentleman instantly repaired, and. having thrown himself on 
his knees, entreated they might join him in prayer, when he supplicated 
the Almighty to show the same mercy to the people as they would show 
to their prisoners ; and with that he addressed them in such feeling, pa- 
thetic, and moving language, that he thereby saved the lives of several 
who had been just ordered to the bridge from the market-house by Dixon. 
While the Rev. Mr. Corrin was on the fatal spot, Mr. Esmonde Kyan, 
who had been wounded in the shoulder at the battle of Arklow, lay in the 
most excruciating torture in a house at Ferry-bank, on the country side 
of the wooden-bridge ; but on hearing what was going forward, he in- 
stantly got out of bed, ran to the fatal spot, and by his animated conduct 
and address rescued Mr. Newton King, and Captain Milward, of the 
Wexford militia, with some others, from the fury of the populace. General 
Edward Roche, also, by his humane interference, snatched Mr. James 
Goodall and others from the jaws of death ; while different other persons 
of inferior note, and some even of the lower class, interposed so as to save 
one or other of their neighbours ; and at length it pleased God that this 
hprrid butchery ceased ! The Catholic clergymen and all the principal in- 
habitants who remained in the town that day, exhausted every means in 
their power in endeavours to appease the rage of the populace, of whom, it 
is necessary to observe, they could have little or no personal knowledge, as 
the outrageous multitude had collected from the northern parts of the 
coimty, and not at all composed of Wexford men, over whom they might be 
supposed to have some local influence."* 

While this scene was going on in Wexford, the British Commander-in- 
Chief was completing his preparations for the grand finishing stroke against 
the power of the insurgents. By the evening of the 20th all was ready. 

flag question, Mr. Hay says (p. 222) : — ** It is an absolute fact that this identical black 
flag was, throughout the whole insurrection, borne by a particular corps ; and the carry- 
ing of banners of that colour was by no means a singular circumstance during that period, 
as flags of that and every other hue, except orange, were waved by the insurgents." If, 
for Murder Without Sin, we read Marksmen, Wexford, Shelmaliere, we have probably the 
true interpretation of the mystic initials. The marksmen or sharp-shooters of the ba- 
rony of Shelmaliere were a very important corps of the Wexford rebel army. 

We borrow this explanation from Mr. Crofton Croker, the editor of the " Memoirs of 
Joseph Holt," who gives it in a note to that work (vol. i., p. 90), on the authority of a 
member of the corps which carried the flag in question. 

* Pp. 210-220. The number of the victims is stated by this writer (the best au- 
thority we have) at thirty-six. 


The British generals were at their posts, with their several divisions (Ge* 
neral Needham, from Arklow, excepted), and orders were given for a 
simultaneous attack to be made the next morning on the town of Ennis* 
corthy and the camp of Vinegar Hill. 

Soon after daybreak, on the 2i8t, the army began to move. General 
Johnson opened his assault on the town, while the Commander-in-Chief 
commenced his approach to the camp. General Lake had disposed his 
attack in four columns, with the view of surrounding the rebel forces and 
cutting off their retreat. The people were strong in numbers and in valour, 
but in nothing else. They had a few pieces of cannon, but they lacked am- 
munition : the whole stores of the camp supplied barely enough for two rounds. 
They had their thousands of pikemen ; but pikemen could not do much against 
such artillery, so posted and so served, as the British general brought against 
.them. They had hoped to see Edward Roche, with the Shelmaliere 
marksmen (the only first-rate musketeers in their whole army) and the other 
reinforcements ordered from Wexford : but Edward Roche had only been 
able to get away from Wexford late the evening before, and the reinforce- 
ments were still on the road. Nothing remained for them but to fight as 
well as they could, and as long as they could, and then to retreat, if they 
could. They maintained their position " obstinately," as the enemy ex- 
pressed it, for two hours. Their " fortitude " under that tremendous fire 
has been the theme of admiration with historians who had few sympathies 
with rebels. *' A storm of shells and grape was poured on the fanatical 
multitude ; the priests encouraged them by exhortations, the women by 
their cries ; and every shell that broke among the crowd was followed by 
shouts of defiance."* General Lake's horse was shot, many of his officers 
wounded, and some killed. The royal troops advanced slowly but steadily 
up the hill, continually repulsed by the pikemen, yet continually recovering 
themselves and gaining ground, under the protection of their artillery. To 
this the rebels had nothing to oppose. Their cannon lay silent and useless 
on the hill — two rounds had exhausted their ammunition. At length it be- 
came plain that by no possible effort of skill or valour could they keep their 
ground without reinforcements ; but of General Edward Roche's urgently 
besought and anxiously expected aid, no sign was to be seen. Enveloped 
in a torrent of fire, they broke and fled. It was well for them that they 
could fly. The British general's plan had been to let not a man escape : 
but in this he was disappointed ; one entire division of his army did not 
come into the field until the battle was over. The absence of General 
Needham from his post left open to the insurgents a retreat to Wexford, 
through a country where neither artillery nor cavalry could act efficiently 
against them. 

On the first sign of their flight, the British cavalry attempted to follow 
them : but at this critical moment Edward Roche came up with his rein- 
forcements, threw himself between the defeated army and their pursuers, 
and with much ability covered their retreat. They reached Wexford in 
safety, encamped at their old station of the Three Rocks, and prepared for 
a vigorous defence of that position. 

The conflict in the town of Enniscorthy was even more sanguinary than 
the action on Vinegar Hill. General Johnson's attack was bold and well 
conducted : the defence was animated by the fierce courage of despair. 

* Barrington. 


Like their brethren on Vinegar Hill, the insurgents in Enniscorthy were 
wofully deficient in ammunition. A few pounds of gunpowder were the 
whole of their stock ; they had only naked physical strength and dogged 
endurance, to oppose to an army perfectly equipped and appointed with 
everything that belongs to the maUriel of scientific warfare. For two 
hours they stood their ground, led by Edward Fitzgerald, of New-park. 
The British cannon made deadly havoc among them ; but, as rank after 
rank of them was mown down, new men were ready to take their place. 
The carnage was Mghtful. The contest ended at last, in the only way 
in which, in the nature of things, it could end — ^the British troops entered 
the town. 

And then came all the usual atrocities which mark every royalist 
success in this horrible campaign, together with some that were alto- 
gether unusual even then and there. Besides the customary plunderings, 
burnings, and murders, the victorious British troops and their Hessian 
allies (for foreign mercenaries were hired on the occasion) actually burned 
a hospital, with the patients in it, A large house in Enniscorthy, 
which the insurgent leaders had had fitted up for the reception of their sick 
and wounded, was totally consumed, with all its helpless, unresisting in- 
mates, to the number, some say of more than thirty, others of nearly 
eighty.* Of other atrocities now perpetrated by the victorious military, 
we cannot speak but in generalities. During the days immediately follow- 
ing this success of the government troops, it could not have been worse 
for Enniscorthy and the country round, had Wexford been overrun by some 
horde of Cossacks, Calmucks, or Cherokees from beyond the outskirts of 
civilisation, and almost of humanity itself. The country, cleared of its 
armed men, was scoured by the soldiery in all directions, in quest of vic- 
tims of cruelty and lust. Old men and children — " idiots and fools" even- 
were put to cruel deaths ; and women everywhere encountered the fate 
worse than death. The Ancient Britons and the Hompesche Dragoons 
(German mercenaries) were the most conspicuous in these abominations.f 

The 21st of June was an anxious and a busy day in the town of Wex- 
ford, whose situation was now critical in the extreme. With three royal 
armies approaching to invest it by land, and gun-boats blockading the har- 

* Historic impartiality requires us to inform the reader that this piece of military 
atrocity, though never denied, has been " explained." A surgeon who was present 
assured Mr. Gordon (see his" History of the Rebellion") that "the burning was accidental, 
the bed-clothes being set on fire by the wadding of the soldiers' guns, who were shooting 
the patientt in their beds" 

t The people could, on occasioa, do atrocious things as well as the military : but of 
one species of outrage the rebels are pronounced not guilty, by all the historians of the 
time, with a unanimity to which we are not aware that the exception of a single dis« 
sentient voice exists. In no one instance, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, in the 
north or in the south, was a womao, whether of high or low degree, injured or insulted 
by the people. 

With any particular account of the conduct of the military in this respect we shall 
not nauseate the reader. Vide, in general, the histories of the time, passim; and, in 
particular, a note of Plowden's ** Historical Review," vol. ii., p. 705. 

The whole of this disgusting and loathsome subject is contained, by implication, in 
what a certain Captain of yeomanry said to Mr. John Blachford, of Altadore, in the county 
of Wicklow, when the latter complained of a horrid outrage committed by three men of 
the captain's corps : — '* The crime is great ; but consider the times, my dear sir — it toould 
be dangerous to punish the yeomanry." — " Life of Grattan," vol. iv., p. 393. 



bonr, a successful defence was out of the question : and the consequences 
of an unsuccessful attempt at defence were too hideous to be contemplated. 
It had been proposed, late on the evening of the 20th, in conversation be- 
tween Mr. Hay and Lord Eingsborough, to try to obtain terms for the 
town through the intercession of the latter ; and his lordship, who had ex- 
cellent reasons of his own for dreading to be shut up in the place by a 
siege, cordially concurred in the plan. Before three o'clock on the morning of 
the 21st he sent again for Mr. Hay. There was no time to lose ; for they 
" distinctly heard the report of the cannon from Enniscorthy, where the 
battle had just then commenced." The principal inhabitants were instantly 
*' rapped up," aud in a short time the whole town was awake. A meeting 
was held at the house of Captain Eeugh, which Lord Kingsborough at- 
tended ; when it was decided, with litde debate, that the town should be 
immediately surrendered to his lordship, as military commander ; that Dr. 
Jacob, the former mayor, should resume his office — so that all civil and 
military authority should be replaced in " legitimate" hands ; and that de- 
putations should be sent to the head-quarters of the several royal armies — 
at Enniscorthy, Oulard, and Taghmon— to acquaint them with the capitula- 
tion. The meeting then adjourned to the Custom House Quay, to pro- 
pose this arrangement to the people, who signified their approval by three 
cheers. Captain Keugh, as revolutionary governor, then surrendered his 
sword with the due formalities to Lord Kingsborough, as legitimate gover- 
nor, and the town of Wexford re-entered into the kmg's peace. 

Lord Kingsborough, thus invested with the military governorship of 
Wexford, immediately wrote dispatches to the several generals in com- 
mand of the armies approaching the town, informing them — 

" That the town of Wexford had surrendered to him, and in conse- 
" quence of the behaviour of those in the town during the rebellion, ihe^ 
'' should all he protected in person and property (murderers excepted^ 
'* and those who had instigated others to commit murder), hoping these 
*' terms might be ratified, as he had pledged his honour in the most 
" solemn manner to have these terms fulfilled on the town being sur- 
'' rendered to him ; the Wexford men not being concerned' in the mas- 
" sacre, which was perpetrated by the country people in their absence." 

With these dispatches were inclosed the following proposals from the 
people of Wexford :— 

** That Captain M'Manus shall proceed from Wexford toward Oulard, 
" accompanied by Mr. Edward Hay, appointed by the inhabitants of all 
**' religious persuasions, to inform the officer commanding the king's troops 
** that they are ready to deliver up the town of Wexford without opposi- 
" tion, to lay down Uieir arms, and return to their allegiance, provided that 
** their persons and properties are guaranteed by the commanding officer ; 
** and that they will use every influence in Uieir power to induce the 
'' people of the country at large to return to their allegiance ; and these 
" terms it is hoped Captain M'Manus will be able to procure. 

" Signed by order of the inhabitants of Wexford, 

"Matthew Keugh. 
« Wexford, June 21, 1798." 

Captain M^Manus and Mr. Hay set out accordingly ; and had got as far as 


Castle Bridge, when, finding that the division of the royal army which had heen 
stationed at Oulard had moved towards Enniscorthy, they proceeded to 
the latter place. Their way lay through a country " in a most dreadful 
situation ; houses on fire, dead men and women strewed along the road 
and in the fields, while the soldiers were hunting for such as might he 
concealed in the ditches, and bringing down every person they met ; in 
fine, it was altogether a dreadful picture, exhibiting all the horrors of war." 
On their arrival at the sacked and burning town, they were fortunately met by 
a party of Captain M^Manus's regiment (the Antrim Militia), and escorted 
by them to the presence of the Commander-in-Chief, to whom they de- 
livered their dispatches. The news of their arrival having quickly spread 
through the town, numbers of officers, yeomen, and gentlemen crowded about 
them, '^ some anxious to hear of their firiends, while others expressed how 
disappointed they would be if hindered to demolish Wexford, with all the 
concomitant horrors and atrocities usual on such dreadful and shocking oc- 
casions. Some had the savage indecency even to mention some young 
ladies by name, who they intended should experience the effects of their 
brutal passions before they would put them to death ; but these intentions 
they feared would be frustrated, by the account I gave them of the pro- 
posal and dispatches; others wished the extermination of all Catholics.'** 

They remained at £nniscorthy that night ; and early the next morning 
Mr. Hay was sent back to Wexford, witi^ the Commander-in-Chiefs an- 
swer, which was stem, hard, and threatening :— 

" LiETJTENANT-GENEaA.L Lake cunnot attend to any terms hy rebels 
" in arms against their sot^ereign : while they continue so, he must use 
" the force intrusted to him with the utmost energy for their destruction. 
*• To the deluded multitude he promises pardon on their delivering into 
*' his hands their leaders, surrendering their arms, and returning with 
** sincerity to their allegiance. 

«G. Lake. 
<< Enniscorthy, Jane 32nd, 1708." 

The disappointed envoy expressed his fears that the answer would not be 
pleasing to the people of Wexford, as it did not ratify the terms promised 
by Loid Kingsborough. But no other answer was to be had. General 
Lake had nothing to do with Lord Kingsborough's promises, nor would he 
80 much as send any reply to his dispatches. He ordered Hay to return 
to Wexford, and come back to him, without loss of time, with a positive 
answer from the " rebels" (bringing Lord Kingsborough with him), as he 
was determined not to discontinue the march of the army ; and " if any 
fatality should happen to Lord Kingsborough, or any of the prisoners, 
nothing should dissuade him from his original intention of annihilating 
the town.*' The object is clear enough : he wished to annihilate the town, 
and purposely threw every difficulty in the way of that surrender which 
would leave no decent pretext for a siege and a storm. 

It was well for Wexford that there was a British general nearer at hand 
than the Commander-in-Chief, and of a far different mood of mind from 
that hard and cruel man. Wexford had surrendered already that morning, 
and was safe. The Three-Rocks camp had been broken up, on the 
completion of the arrangement with Lord Kingsborough, and the insur- 

♦ Hay, p. 235. . 


gent army inarched away in two divisions from the neighbourhood of 
the town ; and General Sir John Moobe * had thereupon approached 
Wexford from Taghmon with an overwhehning force, and accepted its sur- 
render in due military form. The transaction was already completed before 
the arrival of the Commander-in-Chief, and could not, by any ingenuity, be 
re-opened. There was no help for it: General Lake was bound by military 
law, whatever his wishes and previous intentions, to recognise the capitula- 
tion, and enter the place in peace. 

The rebellion was now crushed ; and " order/* according to the military 
and magisterial idea of order, reigned again in Wexford. Party ferocity, 
disappoLQted of the anticipated siege, storm, and sack, began forthwith to 
sate itself in another way. Arrests and executions were incessant, and 
courts-martial laboured diligently in the service of Orangeism. The terms 
of the capitulation made by the inhabitants with Lord Kingsborough were 
utterly disregarded. Relying on the faith of his lordship's promise of 
protection to life and property, many persons, more or less implicated, 
or supposed to be implicated in the late events, remained in Wexford, un- 
suspicious of danger. They discovered their mistake when they were 
taken up and thrown into gaol. Almost all the principal inhabitants were 
arrested on charges of treason. The Reverend Philip Roche came in, 
unarmed and alone, from the camp at Sledagh (whither he had led his 
division of the popular army on leaving the Three Rocks), in the confident 
hope of obtaining favourable terms for the men under his command. His 
conspicuous person was immediately recognised on his advance within the 
lines of the royal army ; he was " dragged from his horse, and. in the most 
ignominious manner taken up to the camp on the Windmill Hills, pulled 
by the hair, kicked, bufieted, and at length hauled down to the gaol in 
such a condition as scarcely to be recognised."! Captain Keugh had 
remained quietly at Lord Kingsborough's lodgings after the surrender, but 
was speedily thrown into gaol. Mr. Cornelius Grogan, a poor gouty old 
gentleman, who had not been in any of the battles, who could not even mount 
his horse without help — ^but whom the people, after their success of the 
30th of May, had hurried along with them by main force and the persua- 
sive of a loaded blunderbuss, and nominated their commissary-— was likewise 
arrested at his seat of Johnstown, and dragged to prison. Harvey had 
gone home to Bargy Castle, without a thought of danger, delighted that the 
business was so well over. He had actually sent some fine fat cattle into 
Wexford, for the use of the royal troops. But the intelligence brought 
back to him, on the return of his messenger, of the state of things in the 
town, was such that he took instant alarm and hastened after Ins friend 
Colclough, who had sought refuge with his wife and child in a cave in one 

* ** General Moore, on consultation with Lord Kingsborough, thought it most advi- 
sable not to let his troops into the ttncn, which it had been determined to annihilate previous to 
the negociation ; and in consequence of this circumstance, of which the army was per- 
fectly aware, it required the utmost precaution to prevent its being plundered, sacked, 
and destroyed, with the attendant atrocities." — Hay, p. 241. 

The behaviour of this gallant and humane officer throughout the war was worthy of 
his high reputation. He abhorred the cruelties of the time, and did his utmost to check 
them. " ^ / were an Irishman, I should be a rdtel,** was his confidential comment to 
Mr. Grattan on the scenes he was daily doomed to witness. — '* Life of Grattan," 
vol. iv., p. 393. 

t Plowdcn. 


of the Saltee Islands, on the southern coast. They were discovered (23rd 
of June), brought into Wexford in military triumph, in the midst of an 
immense concourse of people, and confined in the condemned cells.* All 
these prisoners — Roche, Keugh, Grogan, Harvey, and Colclough — ^without 
regard to the compulsion under which some of them had acted, and the 
many humane and generous acts of others,f shared one common fate. They 
were tried by court-martial for high treason, condemned, and executed with 
circumstances (except in Colclough's case) of savage and indecent brutality. 
Harvey and Grogan were pursued, even in death, by the ioaaliceor cupidity 
of their enemies : their large estates were confiscated by parliamentary 

* Sir Richard Musgrave gives the foliowing account of their apprehension : — 

** Dr. Waddj, a physician, who served in the yeomanry, having got intelligence of 
their retreat, applied to General Lake for a proper party and an anned vessel to go in 
quest of them, which he readily obtained. On landing, they repaired to the only house 
on the island, occupied by one Furlong, who rented it from Mr. Colclough. They found 
there an excellent feather-bed, with fine sheets, which were warm, a handsome tea equi- 
page, some genteel wearing apparel belonging to both sexes, particularly a pair of pan- 
taloons which Dr. Waddy had seen on Mr. Colclough before the rebellion ; and near the 
house, some silk shoes and other articles, hid in high ferns. They searched every sus- 
pected spot on the island, particularly a place called the Otter's Cave, but in vain, 
though they had not a doubt of their having been there, as they had found, among other 
things, a chest of plate concealed in a place belonging to Colclough. 

"The Doctor resolved to make another effort by going round the island in a boat, for the 
purpose of reconnoitring the sides of it. In doing so, he perceived on the edge of a 
high precipice one rock lighter coloured than the adjoining ones ; and as the earth near 
it seemed to have been recently stirred, he suspected they had been making preparations 
there for their concealment. He therefore again ascended the island, and found that the 
approach to the place which he wished to explore was steep, serpentine, and through 
Bome crags. The light-coloured stone covered the mouth of the cave, and above it there 
was an aperture to let in the light. The Doctor called out to Colclough, and told him, 
iSiat if he did not surrender immediately, and without resistance, he should receive no 
quarter. Colclough asked, * Is that Doctor Waddy ? * and on bis saying * yes,' he said 
he would surrender ; and soon after, he, at the Doctor's desire, gave up hlB arms through 
the hole in the cave. The Doctor threw down the precipice the stone which covered 
the mouth of it, which fell with a monstrous crash, on which Mr. and Mrs. Colclough 
came forth, dressed in the meanest habits of peasants for the purpose of disguising them- 
selves. Then B. Harvey came out, saying, < My God, my God !' and so pale and weak 
from fatigue and anxiety of mind, that the doctor was obliged to support him. He also 
had a chest of plate concealed, which he gave in charge to the Doctor and his party." 

+ It would be more correct to say — ^regard being had most rigidly to every such act, 
for the purpose of crimination. By Irish court-martial law in 1798, every instance of suc- 
cessful humanity on the part of a reputed rebel leader told against the prisoner; it was 
a sign of influence with the rebels, and therefore a proof of gpiiilt. 

One of the chief witnesses against Mr. Grogan was a lady, who gave evidence that, 
when her family in the town were in want of food, she had sent to him to request 
an order for bread; which request, to save her family from starving, he reluctantly com. 
plied with. • That order for bread was life to the starving children, but death to poor 
Mr. Grogan. This constructive and implied exercise of the functions of conmiissary to 
the rebel army, was an overt act of high treason. 

Grogan's case was not a solitary one. Gordon says — ** The display of humanity by a 
rebel was, in general, in trials by court-martial, by no means regarded as a ciicumstance 
in favour of the accused. Strange as it may seem in times of cool reflection, it was 
very frequently urged as a proof of guilt. Whoever could be proved to have saved 
a loyalist from assassination, his house from burning, or his property from plunder, 
was considered as having influenee among the rebels; consequently, a rebel com- 
mander." It is said of a gentleman implicated in the rebellion, that he exclaimed, 
in anticipation of his trial, " / thank my God no man can prove me guUty of saving any-' 
body's Ufe or property** 


With the last of these executions, on the 27th of June, the reign of 
military license and terrorism in Wexford was brought to a close. A 
change had already taken place, with the arrival of a new Viceroy (Lord 
Comwallis), in the temper— in the policy, at least—of Dublin Castle, and 
it was time that Wexford should feel the benefit of it. On the 28th, 
General Lake was ordered away elsewhere. He was succeeded by General 
HxJNTEB, a merciful and upright man, who conciliated the people and made 
himself terrible to their tyrants, by a goyemment of common justice and 
conmion sense. The new Comnumder-in-Chief soon " found," says Plow- 
den, " that the only severity he had to exercise wca upon the gentry 
and yeomanry^ whose sanguinary and yindictiye exertions it became ne- 
cessary to check, lest the people should be goaded into a relapse."* 
These gentry and yeomanry did all that men possibly could do to get up 
a new rebellion ; and, with a weak and pliant-minded officer in command, 
they must infallibly have succeeded. A constant system of alarm was 
kept up, for the obvious purpose of precipitating the government into 
violent and cruel measures, the reaction of which woidd have been a 
second civU war, vdth more massacres, more biunings, plunderings, and 
confiscations. The purpose seems too diabolical to be ascribed to human 
creatures ; but the thing is matter of history. Rumours were most in- 
dustriously circulated of an approaching general massacre of the Protes- 
tants : magisterial applications and remonstrances were sent to govern- 
ment, complaining of outrages and disturbances (when the only real dis- 
turbers were their own house-breaking, house-burning, and peasant- 
shooting yeomanry). Affidavits were sent to Dublin, carefully framed with 
aU the circumstantiality suited to vnn belief, that the whole of a large and 
populous quarter of the county, called the Macomores, was infested with 
constant meetings of "rebels," and was on the verge of a new rising; 
and the extermiQation of all its inhabitants by fire and sword was actuaUy 
planned and ordered, subject only to General Hunter's approval. Orders 
were sent to the generals and other commanding officers in and contiguous 
to the devoted tract of country, to form a cordon along its whole extent on 
the western border, and at both ends, north and south, on the land side, so 
as to leave the inhabitants no alternative but to be butchered by the 
soldiery or driven into the sea. Happily, General Hunter did not, on in- 
quiry, approve any such thing. He iscovered, by a minute and laborious 
investigation, that the whole business was an enormously wicked con- 
spiracy, and was only restrained by the most urgent intercessions of many 
gentlemen and ladies, and by a clemency the indulgence of which he after- 
wards regretted, jfrom bringing its concocters to court-martial justice.f 

* Sir John Moore was not long of making the same discovery in Wicklow, where he 
was stationed after the suppression of the Wexford insurrection. In his report to the 
Lord Lieutenant on the stat« of his county, later in the year, he said, " That the pre- 
sence of troops might be necessary for some time longer, hut it would be more to check 
the yeomanry and the Protestants than the people** 

t See a full account of this affidr in Hay, p. 273 et seq. 

The audacity of these people was such that some of them went the length of tearing 
the toritten protections which the peasantry had received on surrendering their arms ; 
'* but this coming to the General's knowledge, he soon quieted them by threatening 
to have them tied to a cart's tail and whipped." A certain curate of the Protestant 
church "was induced to wait on the General with an account of the intended massacre of 
the Protestants, which he detailed with the appearance of the utmost alann, and was 


The General perfsevered in his wise and pacific course, and gained the af- 
fections, the gratitude, and the confidence of the people, who flocked in hy 
crowds to surrender their arms and take out certificates of protection. 
Wexford had peace at last-^or what, in Ireland, might pass for peace. 

The great mass of the Wexford insurgents, however, continued in arms 
for a considerahle period after the pacification of their county. We have 
mentioned that on the capitulation to Lord Kingsborough the rebel army 
broke up their camp at the Three Rocks, and marched away in two divi- 
sions. They made good their retreat, notwithstanding every effort of the 
royal forces to surround and intercept them. One division went north- 
ward into Wicklow. The other pushed westward, through Carlow, 
into Kilkenny and Queen's County, fighting every inch of their way, on 
many occasions with serious loss to their opponents. This division had 
some active skirmishing, on the 23rd, with a detachment imder Sir Charles 
AsgiU ; and on the 24th captured and burned the town of Castlecomer, in 
Kilkenny. They afterwards pressed rapidly on into Queen's County. 
Their leaders had hoped, by a bold and vigorous demonstration, to arouse 
an insurrectionary movement in the coimtry through which they marched ; 
but, disappointed in this expectation, not finding themselves anywhere 
joined by the inhabitants, wpm out with toil, weakened by desertion, and 
perpetually harassed by the king's troops, they resolved to return home- 
ward. On the night of the 25di they encamped on an eminence called 
KiUcomney HiU. The next morning they found themselves surrounded 
by the enemy, who had approached them unobserved, nearly two thousand 
strong, under cover of a dense fog ; a heavy fire from the royal artillery 
was tihe first intimation they received of the perilousness of their posi- 
tion. Fighting was out of the question : but they succeeded, with a severe 
loss, in effecting a retreat, forced their way through the pass of ScoUagh- 
gap, and re-entered Wexford. Most of them Aspersed to their homes, 
and never reappeared in arms ; a few still held together, and joined their 
comrades in Wicklow. 

The northern division of the Wexford army, under Edward Fitzgerald 
of New-park, and Edward Roche, kept the field some weeks longer ; main- 
taining a fierce and rapid, but desultory warfare, in which great nulitary 
skill was displayed, many feats of daring valour were performed, and the 
royal troops very severely harassed, but no results of permanent importance 
accomplished. The strength of the rebellion was by this time thoroughly 
broken ; and the chief effect of this posthumous insurrection — ^latterly, its 
only objeclr— was to render the insurgents of sufficient consequence to be 
negociated with by the goviemment, and admitted to honourable terms of ca- 
pitulation. In this they were to a great extent successful. 

The first scene of tiiese irregular partisan hostilities was the county of 
Wicklow, where the rugged, mountainous character of the ground afforded 
a fine field for this kind of warfare. On the night of the 24th, the rem- 
nant of the Wexford army encamped at Ballymanus, where they formed a 

patiently heard out with the greatest complacency by the General; who, when the 
curate had ended, addressed him with this marked appellation and strong language : — 
* Mr, Massacre^ if you do not prove to me the circumstances you have related, I shall get 
you punished in the most exemplary manner for raising false alarms, which have 
ahready proved so destructive to this unfortunate country.' " The curate's apprehen- 
sions of massacre, it is needless to say, rapidly subsided. 


temporary junction with a band of Wicklow insurgents, under Garret 
Bjrme and Joseph Holt* After an unsuccessful attack on Hacketstown, on 
the morning of the 25th, from which place they were repulsed with great 
slaughter at the end of a conflict of nine hours, the combined forces 
marched southward to the Wexford frontier, with the view of surprising 

* The character and history of this extraordinary man, as shown in his very lively 
and entertaining,. but rather self-glorifying « Memoirs," will repay attention. Holt's 
exploits have little direct relation to the great public erents of 1798, but they form an 
interesting episode of much illostratiye value. 

Joseph Holt, befoze the rebellion, was a substantiail Wicklow Protestant farmer, 
and a large dealer in wool — industrious, peaceable, loyal, and well>to-do in the world. 
He had at different times filled the offices of constable of his barony, orerseer of public 
works, deputy billet-master, and others of a similar grade. He was nothing of a dema* 
gogue or agitator ; had never meddled, either as United Irishman or otherwise, with 
** them that are given to change," detested political agitation in general, and United 
Irish agitation in particular — and speaks, throughout his " Memoirs," of the cause of 
liberty in a most unedifying tone of aversion and contempt. Holt was every way a 
.loyal, conservative, and "respectable" man — ^with one drawback: he had a humane 
and honest heart, had no liking for Orangeism, and never would join his Protestant 
neighbours in persecuting and insulting Catholics, llie consequence of which was that 
Holt became a marked man. 

When the rebellion broke out, he was denounced as disaffected by an Orange squireen 
who bore him a private grudge ; a party of yeomanry went to his house, fortunately in 
his absence, to arrest him. The usual consequence of a disappointed domiciliary visit en- 
sued; he returned, and found his comfortable home a smoking wreck. From that hour 
Holt became a rebeL He rushed *< like a fury " to a place called " The Devil's Glen," 
and there passed the night in a cave, <* where were collected," he says, *<a few unfortu- 
nate persecuted creatures like myseUf, and we recounted to each other our misfortunes 
and our wretched fate." This was on the 10th of May« Common sufferings and 
wrongs soon prompted common efforts for self-protection and revenge. The next day 
Holt followed the example of his companions in misery, and took the United Irishmen's 
oath. By the end of a week he found himself the elected leader of a hundred and six- 
teen men. Persecution and oppression daily increased the numbers of this little corps 
of Defenders. First hundreds, and afterwards thousands of ** poor devils," hunted out 
of house and home like himself, placed themselves under his command, and Holt be- 
came successively a colonel and a general. 

The Rebellion of 1798 — like all other rebellions which do not grow to the size of re- 
volutions — has been called "unnatural." In poor Holt's case, as in thousands of others, 
rebellion was the most natural thing in the world for a man to do — the dictate of nature's 
universal law of self-preservation. His philosophy of the matter is extremely simple. 
He says — " I had, in short, no alternative ; I might escape by continuing a rebel to my 
king, but certain destruction followed my return to the quarters of the military." It is 
pleasant to know that, by " continuing a rebel to his kiug," Holt actually did escape. On 
the 10th of November, precisely six months from the first night in the Devil's Glen, 
after successfully defying during the whole of that time the combined efforts of the 
king's troops and the yeomanry, in an area of little more than twenty miles* square, at 
no point more than thirty miles from the metropolis — executing many skilftil retreats, 
and gaining some brilliant successes — ^he was admitted to terms with the government^ 
through Lord Powerscourt. 

As a military leader. Holt was humane, generous, and just. " Driven into rebellion," 
as he says, " to save his life," he treated other men's lives with as much tenderness as 
the necessities of his position peimitted. He frequently interfered to save prisoners 
from slaughter, and boasts — so far as appears, truly — that he never committed an act of 
wanton cruelty, or was guilty of murder in cold blood. He discountenanced and 
punished the predatory propensities of his followers and allies, and on one occasion 
(" Memoirs," vol. i., p. 169) denounced to the British general a band of robbers who 
pretended to belong to his army. 

After many years' absence from his country in New South Wales (transportation was 
the condition on which his surrender was accepted). Holt received a free pardon, and 
returned to Ireland. He died near Dublin, in May, 1826. 


the garrison of Camew, a post regarded by both paities as of the utmost 
consequence. The enterprise seemed a hopeful one; the garrison were 
ignorant of their being in the neighbourhood, and no measures of defence 
had been taken. But General Needham, then stationed at Gorey, received 
timely intelligence of their movements, and detached a force of some 
himdreds of cavalry to intercept their march ; a large number of these 
were of the detested corps of Ancient Britons. The royalist party came 
up with the advanced guard of the insurgents on their road to Camew, at 
a place called BAiiLTELLis, and charged them furiously. The rebels were, 
however, prepared by previous information to expect the enemy — had, in 
fact, been waiting for them at that particular point of the road. On re- 
ceiving the charge of the cavalry they fled — ^in obedience to orders. The 
British troops pursued them, " sure," says Holt, " they had it all their own 
way, and had but to push on and cut down all before them " — ^pursued 
them into a deep, narrow defile, formed by *' thick and strong hedges of crab 
and thorns on each side." No sooner were they between these hedges 
than a raking fire was opened on them, right and left, from hundreds of 
invisible musketeers. They were thrown into confusion, and attempted a 
retreat. But no retreat was open ; the extremity of the pass was found 
to be blocked up with cars, carts, and baggage, and a hundred musketeers 
guarded the barricades. All was disorder and panic — ^horses and men, 
wounded and dying, all crowded and jammed together — ^resistance and 
fiiight alike impossible ; the pikemen rushed in and did the rest. The 
Ancient Britons were nearly annihilated in this afiair ; the rebels lost not a 
man. Notwithstanding the decisive success of this ambuscade, the in- 
tended attack on Camew was foiled. A few of the cavalry, in the heat and 
thick of the contest, burst the barriers by sheer force of weight and pres- 
sure, and made their way to Camew. The garrison had time to put 
themselves in a posture of defence, and the assailants were successfully 

Baffled in their attempt on Camew, the Wexford men turned again north- 
ward. Separating themselves from their Wicklow associates, they under- 
took a bolder and more distant enterprise than any they had previously 
attempted. They marched direct into the northern counties of Leinster, 
with ttie view of rousing the people of those counties into insurrection, and 
efiecting a diversion in favour of Wexford, at that time the head-quarters 
of the British army in Ireland. The metropolis, and even Ulster, seemed 
not too remote for their sanguine hopes. Recruiting their cavalry from 
Kildare (famous for its breed of horses), they pushed rapidly on, skirting 
Dublin County, into Meath, and across the Boyne into Louth — sixteen 

* To whom the credit of this brilliant manoeuvre belongs, is as difficult a problem 
as any in oar history. Holt quietly appropriates the v^hole of it to himself. Teeling does 
not mention Holt, but ascribes it to the fine generalship of Fitzgerald. Dr. Madden 
(vol. i., p. 292) giyes the chief part of it to one Deunis Taafe (unnamed by the others), 
formerly a Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, afterwards a Protestant Hebrew pro- 
fessor in Dublin University, subsequently a political writer, at this time an adventurer 
in the rebel army. Dr. M. says, " Any one who has ever pursued inquiries on the subject 
of the exploits of the United Irishmen, or the engagements of the military with the former, 
will not wonder at the eagerness of the leaders of either party to thrust themselves for- 
ward in the foreground of the picture, and to figure on the scene as the chief, or perhaps 
the sole actors in it.*' 

The accounts of the numbers slain at Ballyellis vary from forty-six to three hundred 
and seventy, killed " in less than twenty minutes." 


hundred men, with eight hundred horses, each horse carrying a pikeman 
and a musketeer. By the celerity of their movements they completely 
eluded the pursuit of the royal forces, successfully skirmished with several 
parties detached from the neighbouring garrisons to intercept them, advanced 
within seven miles of Dublin, and forced two military stations to the north- 
west of the capital. But the main object of the expedition failed. Their 
hope of raising the people in arms was entirely disappointed ; the inhabi- 
tants of Meath and Louth were in general supine, irresolute, and out of 
heart, and no insurrectionary movement could be effected. After some 
two or three weeks of marching and counter-marching, during which they 
traversed in different directions more than five hundred miles of country, 
with scarcely a day's rest from fighting, this last remnant of the insurgent 
army of Wexford was at length completely routed by Captain Gordon, of the 
Dumfries Light Dragoons, at the head of a strong party of horse and foot, at 
the village of Ballyboghill, ten miles north of the capital. They never 
more assembled in arms. Fitzgerald and a few of his comrades were for- 
tunate enough to join Aylmer in Kildare, and were included in his capi- 
tulation to General Dimdas on the 12th of July. 

While the events narrated in the foregoing pages were in progress, 
Ulsteb had had its insurrection already, and failed. Seven years of poli- 
tical agitation — ^three years of military organisation — ^had borne fruit in a 
hasty, ill-concerted movement, which lasted but a few days, produced not 
one important success to the popular arms, and was without influence on 
the general course of events. That we have not found occasion to mention 
the northern rising in its due chronological place, indicates not inaptly its 
true character. It was, in fact, a mere parenthesis in the B«beUion of 
1798 ; beginning long after the beginning, and ending long before the end 
of the war generally, and in no way breaking the continuity of the great 
events of the year. 

We left the Ulster United Irishmen, on the 29th of May, still debating, 
and resolving, and organising in their committee-room, and very much in- 
clined to be of opinion that it would be better for them " not to meet again 
and deceive the people any longer." It would have been well for them had 
they rested in that opinion : but it is not in human nature to spend seven 
years in organising, and do nothing, at last. In the first week of June, the 
men of Ulster determined to take die field. 

It was now that the mischiefs of that elaborate and complex me- 
chanism of which the northerns had been so boastful, fatally disclosed 
themselves. After aU their long-drawn preparations, they were at last 
taken unprepared, and obliged to act in a hurry. It had been intended 
that Anibim and Down, the two most important and best organised 
counties of the province, should both rise together ; and had they done so, 
the consequences might have been serious. But their organisation stood 
in the way. On the 4th of June, three days before the time appointed for 
the general rising of the province, the Rev. Dr. William Steele Dickson, 
Adjutant-General for Down,* was arrested, with two of his staff. The 
others had warning, and escaped. A new Adjutant-General could not be 

* This gentleman was a Presbyterian divine, of high character, fine intellect, and far- 
going political liberalism. He had been appointed as successor to Thomas Russell (the 
** P.P." of Tone's Journals), on the arrest of the latter in the winter of 1796. 


immediately appointed : the consequence was that Down was disorganised, 
and disorganisation was paralysis. The men of Down urged, accordingly, 
the necessity of delay. But Antrim was prepared, and would not hear of 
delay. Her colonels were already assembled in council, on the summons 
of their Adjutant-General, to make their final arrangements ; numbers had 
already quitted their homes to take the field, and were only waiting for 
orders to commence action; when, to the astonishment and dismay of 
everybody, the Adjutant-General resigned,* All was now confusion and 
alarm ; treachery was apprehended ; men distrusted each other, and almost 
themselves. It was too late, however, to recede, committed as they then were. 
If there might be danger in going on, there was assuredly no safety in 
going back. Intelligence arrived, while they were debating, that the 
government troops were marching, and that the advanced guard of the 
British cavalry was within a mile of the scene of their deliberations.f After 
an anxious and hurried discussion, it was decided by the bolder spirits of 
the coimcil (some had already sought safety in flight) to nominate Henby 
Joy M'Cra.ckenJ Adjutant-General of their county, and Commander-in- 
Chief of the United Irish army of the north. He promptly obeyed the call, 
and proceeded to do all which man then could do, to re-piece the broken 
machinery, and bring the elaborately and cautiously bungled business to a 
successful issue. 

The time was short, the enemy was on the alert, and rapid action must 
repair the mischiefs of lingering preparation. M*Cracken's first movement 
was on the town of Antkim, twelve miles distant from Belfast ; a place 
of great military value to the people, as necessary to open their com- 
munication with Derry and Donegal, where a powerful co-operation was 
expected. The new Commander-in-Chief issued forthwith the following 

" Abmy of Ulsteb ! " 
" To-MOEEOW we march on Antrim. Drive the garrison of Randals- 

* Dr. Madden says (Second Series, vol. ii., p. 431), " The Adjutant-General of 
Antrim was a gentleman who is still living, one of the first and most active promoters of 
the Society of United Irishmen.** 

t See Teeling*8 " Personal Narrative," p. 229. 

j Henry Joy M*Cracken, a Belfast cotton-manufacturer, was one of the very few United 
Irish leaders who actually engaged in the rebellion. We have already (p. 55) seen his 
name, in connexion with those of Tone, Neilson, and Russell, as one of the fathers and 
founders of the first Society of United Irishmen, in 1701. He had continued to take an 
active though unostentatious part in the business of the association, and had endured a 
year's imprisonment under the Habeas-Corpus-Suspension Act of 1796. 

Dr. Madden gives a very interesting memoir of him (Second Series, vol. ii.) from 
materials furnished in great part by his sister. M'Cracken was one of the very best of 
the Irish patriots of 1798 ; a man of kind and generous heart, gentle manners, and strong 
will, sagacious in council, resolute and self-possessed in action. His civic virtues did 
not all run into political agitation : <* he was one of a few individuals who undertook the 
establishment of the first Sunday school in Belfast, between fifty and sixty years ago ; it 
was held in the old market-house, the place of his execution." At the time of his death 
he was in his thirty-first year. 

James Hope, the self-educated Belfast weaver, to whom Dr. Madden repeatedly ac- 
knowleges himself indebted for interesting and valuable historic materials, says, of this 
young patriot and general — ** Henry Joy M*Cracken was the most discerning and de- 
termined man of all our northern leaders, and by his exertions chiefly the union of the 
societies of the north and south was maintained. His memory is still fresh in the hearts 
of those who Itnew him. Forty winters have passed over it, and the green has not gone 
from it." 


'* town before you, and haste to form a junction with the Commander- 
" in-Chief. 

"Henky Joy M^Cracken. 
*< First Year of Liberty, 6th June, 1798." 

The Commander-in-Chief kept his word ; but the ** Army of Ulster " 
had sadly dwindled down since the date of the returns of April, 1797, 
showing an organised and regimented force of a hundred thousand armed 
men. On the morning of the 7th, M'Cracken, disobeyed, deserted, and 
betrayed by the very officers who were to have formed his staff,* set out 
on his march from a place called Crerarogan Fort, a few miles from 
Antrim, with a force of not more than one hundred men. These were 
increased, by successive additions on their line of march, to somewhere 
about five hundred ; \ who '* considered themselves," as well they might, 
*' more as a forlorn hope, than a force having any well-founded expectation 
of a successful issue." Yet there were good soldiers among these five 
himdred. Many of them were of the old Volunteer corps, familiar with 
the musket, and not unacquainted with the use of artillery. 

With this handful of an army, the dauntless young Conunander-in- 
Chief began the insurrection of Ulster. They approached the scene of 
action in good military array. The musketeers marched in front, with 
firm and measured tread; the more numerous pikemen occupied the 
centre ; and the rear was brought up by two brass field-pieces, six-pounders, 
old Volunteer cannon which had been hid for years in the Presbyterian 
meeting-house at Temple-Patrick. They marched in perfect order, singing 
the Marseillaise Hymn. On reaching an eminence within view of the town, 
their chief halted and harangued them, and was answered with acclama- 
tions, " Lead us to liberty or death." His eloquence was ^ powerfully 
enforced by the arrival of fugitives from the town, who recoimted in moving 
terms, the wrongs and insults they had received from the British garrison. 
Blazing peasants' cabins confirmed their tale. 

The garrison were not imprepared for the reception of the assailants. 
Treachery had been at work in the rebel councils, and their plans were all 
betrayed in the very hour of their formation.} Major Seddon, the officer 
in command, had that morning received reinforcements from the government 
camp of Blaris Moore, and was in hourly expectation of fresh supplies. 
A bold and energetic attack was met, accordingly, by the determined re- 
sistance of a powerful and well-posted garrison. But the insurgents 
steadily advanced — the rebels of 1798 almost invariably fought well, panics 

* James Hope says, << He drew up and signed the fighting orders for the 7th of June, 
and sent them to the officers who had been appointed and were expected to direct the 
movement of the people, but they declined to act." He also states that '* swnt of the 
colotiels sent these orders to General Nugent^ and we were betrayed at all points." — Mad* 
den, Second Series, vol ii., pp. 449-451. 

t This is James Hope's account (Ibid., p. 436), and is probably much nearer the truth 
than the official returns, which give the rebels a force of "some thousands," 

X " The authorities at Belfast had been apprised of the intended rising at one o'clock 
in the morning, the day of the attack on Antrim. The rebel Directory at Belfast had 
determined on the attack at twelve o'clock, or a little past midnight, and one of the leaders 
of their Executive^ within an hour after their deliberation, had communicated the result of it to 
General Nugent"— Ibid, p. 463. 

Dr. Madden makes the above statement on the authority of the Rev. A. C. Macartney, 
vicar of Belfast. 


Qocg excepted^-and the conflict was fierce and sanguinary. James Hope says—* 

" We marched into Antrim in good order, until our front arrived 

^ opposite the Presbyterian meeting-house, when a party of the 22nd Light 

Dragoons wheeled out of the lane below the church, fired on us, and 

* Vt then retreated. Another party then advanced from the same quarter, but 

lit r was soon brought down, men and horse. The rest of theif force fied to 

d c the market-house, and we advanced under a heavy fire from a body of foot, 

tei: covered from our fire by the castle- wall and two field -pieces, by a shot 

k;. from one of which a gun we had brought from Temple -Patrick, placed on 

st a conmion car, was dismounted. We then went into the churchyard, 

e p and silenced the field-pieces, and relieved our pikemen from the shower 

,f^' of grape shot which they had stood without fiinching. Part of our rear 

2^ had been imprudently drawn up in a field on the left of the church, 

^ and rendered useless during the action. Another party, which had ap- 

fr peared on our right on the Donegore-road, as we entered the town, was 

^r ordered to enter the other side of the town, by the back of the gardens. 

On the approach of this party, the horsemen at the market-house, in 

4 danger of being surrounded, and being then galled by our fire, made a 

J charge at full speed up the street, some of the troops having previously 

f^ fled by Shane Castle-road. The body that charged soon fell by our 

ij pikemen."* 

^ These first successes were followed up with that daring and energetic 

^ valour of which we have had so many examples in the Wexford campaign. 

The enemy were at last forced from their guns ; the royal cavalry were 

driven from the town ; and, within one hour after their entry, the insurgents 

were masters of Antrim. 

They ,had no sooner gained the town than they lost it again, bt/ a 

A body of five hundred of their friends had that morning marched 
from Connor and KeUs to join them, had forced the garrison of Randals- 
town after a feeble and brief resistance, and were at this precise moment 
about to enter Antrim on the north. These new comers met the retreating 
British cavalry, mistook their flight for a charge, were panic-struck, 
and fied. The British troops took courage, rallied, re-entered the town, 
and the battle began again. The transaction was witnessed, meanwhile, by 
a small corps of observation which had followed the fugitive cavalry. 
They hastened back into the town with the news, and the panic spread. 
At the same time the expected reinforcements arrrived for the gar- 
rison from Belfast and Blaris camp. 

The event of the day was now virtually decided. " Everything," says 
Teeling, " that talent and courage could suggest was attempted, on the part 
of M*Cracken, to restore order and re-animate the sinking spirit of his 
troops in that quarter where the panic most prevailed ; but expostulation, 
encouragement, threat, all were alike disregarded. He seized a pike, and 
placing himself in the front, menaced with death the man who should dare 
to fiinch from his colours : but terror had now taken possession of the 
breasts which had lately been fired to the highest excitement of courage, 
and, giving way to the most ungovernable fears, they sought safety in flight, 

* Madden, Second Series, vol. ii., p. 451. 


and actually bore down in their confused retreat the man who but a 
moment before had proudly led them to victory.* Their flight was more 
fatal than the most determined resistance, for, encountering a body of 
cavalry, many were cut down with an unsparing hand, and fell victims to 
that terror which too often plunges men into the misfortune they seek 
to avoid. 

** One division still maintained its position, which, from its determined 
and heroic courage, M^Cracken had designated ' The Spartan Band.' This 
was commanded by the faithful Hope, a man whose talents were far 
above his fortimes, and whose fidelity, as well on this * occasion as in 
subsequent calamities of his country, would have honoured the days of 
ancient chivalry. On this post a vigorous attack had been made, virith 
the view of effecting a lodgement, which would have commanded an easy 
entrance to the town. It was assailed and defended with the most 
obstinate courage, but the assailants were forced to retire. A smaU. de- 
tachment of cavalry which had debouched to the left advanced at- full 
gallop, conceiving it to be in possession of the division of which they 
formed a part. Their alarm was equal to their surprise on finding 
themselves surrounded. They conceived their destruction inevitable, and 
awaited their fate in silence; but the generosity of Hope triiunphed over 
every feeling of hostility or revenge. 'Go,' said he; 'your numbers 
are too few for the sacrifice — join your comrades, and tell them that 
the army of the Union feels no triumph in the destruction of the defenceless 
and the weak.' But the fate of the day had bq^n already decided; 
every effort to rally on the part of M'Cracken was ineffectual: the panic 
from partial became general, and rout followed. 

" The brave division of Hope was now obliged to abandon that post 
which they had so nobly maintained. They made a last effort to uphold 
the honour of the day : they marched with boldness, and in the face of a 
victorious enemy they halted. They presented an iron front ; they sus- 
tained the fire of musketry and cannon ; and retired with a reluctant step, 
when resistance was vain, and the last hope of victory had fled. They 
effected a retreat with order, and planted the tattered ensign of their valoiur 
on the heights of Donegore. Here M'Cracken collected such of his 
scattered forces as had escaped the perils of the day or retained firmness 
for another trial of arms."t 

But it soon became clear that another trial of arms was not to be thought of. 
The spirit of the county was broken ; and, with a feeble and disheartened 
remnant of scarcely a hundred men, nothing was to be done. M'Cracken 
indulged at first the hope of penetrating into Kildare or Wicklow ; but the 
closely- watched and guarded state of the country rendered any such move- 
ment impracticable. Eventually he disbanded his little " Army of Ulster," 
recommending every man to do the best he could for himself; and with 
seven trusty friends endeavoured to make his own escape from the vigilance 
of the enemy. His endeavours were not successful. He was pursued, 
taken, tried by court-martial, and executed. The cheerful composure and 

• Hope says — " Two of them, crossing a pike-handle against M^Cracken's breast, 
threw him down, when attempting to stop them and their comrades.** 
t Teeling's " Personal Narrative," pp. 236-338. 


fortitude of M*Cracken*8 last moments worthily crowned an honourable and 
heroic life. 

By the time the insurrection of Antrim was over, that of Dowk was 
ready to begin. Onthe 9th of June — two days after the result of the battle 
of Ajitrim had left the British forces in Ulster free to act against a new 
enemy-~a small party of the United Irishmen of Down appeared in arms 
near Saintfield, in the north of the county. They were immediately forced 
into action, before they could assemble in any formidable number. The 
garrison of Newtownards, in the vicinity (a regiment of York Fencibles, un- 
der Colonel Stapleton), marched to disperse them. A sanguinary but in- 
decisive action ensued, in *which both sides suffered severely. Stapleton 
retreated to Comber, while the insurgents entered Saintfield and took quiet 
possession of the town. The next day, the rising became general in the 
northern parts of the county. Earl^ in the morning a determined attack was 
made on the town of Portaferry : the assailants were repulsed by the vigor- 
ous and well-arranged efforts of the officer in command, a Captain Mat- 
thews.* In the course of the day another party took unresisted possession 
of Newtownards ; from which place they marched the same night to Saint- 
field, the general rendezvous of the insurgent army of Down. 

On the morning of the 11th, the United Irish forces at Saintfield num- 
bered nearly seven thousand men. They unanimously elected as their 
commander Monboe, an old Volunteer ; a man of good military talent, 
spoiled, says Teeling, by " a romantic love of glory and a mistaken feel- 
ing of honour." Monroe's first step was to dispatch an officer of the name 
of Townshend to take possession of Balltnahinch. The garrison fled on 
Townshend's approach, and left the rebels masters of the place. 

On the 12th, Monroe set out for Ballynahinch with the remainder of his 
force. He learned, on the way, that the British troops, under the com- 
mand of Greneral Nugent, supported by General Barber of the artillery, 
had marched from Belfast to intercept his movements. Presently the 
vicinity of the enemy was announced by its usual sign, the blazing cabins 
of the peasantry : " as far," says Teeliig, " as the eye could discern, they 
had. fired the country throughout their line of march." Monroe made his 
arrangements for defence in the best way that time and circumstances per- 
mitted, and succeeded for upwards of an hour in keeping the royal forces 
in check. But he had no cannon (a few small ship-guns excepted), and 
the British artillery was effective and well served. He was at length 
obliged to give way ; sent instructions to Townshend to evacuate Ballyna- 
hinch, some of the houses of which had already caught fire from the enemy's 
shells, and drew off his troops to the neighbouring hill of Ednevady, with 
the view of concentrating them for a general attack on the British forces. 
The latter, meanwhile, entered the town (it was now late in the evening), 
and began plundering, burning, and drinking. As night advanced, all disci- 

* The garrison of Portaferry was a yeomanry corps, of whose combative propensities 
the captain felt painfully sceptical. Bat he was determined that they should fight. 
While awaiting the approach of the assailants, he shut up his men in the market-house, 
ordered the captain of a revenue cruiser lying in the river to point his guns up the street 
down which he apprehended the reluctant military would make their retreat, and so 
rendered fighting the least of two evils. The result fully answered the captain's expec- 
tations. Between the pikemen on the one side, and the ship's guns on the other, they 
did valiantly.— See Teeling's " Personal Narrative," p. 246. 


pline was forgotten ; men and horses were scattered promiscuously through 
the streets, and the hrutal intoxication of the victors offered the United 
army an easy opportunity of repairing the disaster of the day. What fol- 
lowed is thus related by Teeling :— 

" The United troops rested on their arms, tt was a night of deep in- 
terest and awful suspense. Monroe,- ever on the alert, passed from rank to 
rank, cheering, encouraging, and relieving the wants of his companions. 

'' A friendly messenger from the town presented himself at the outposts, 
and was conveyed to head-quarters. He represented the disorganised 
state of the enemy — their unguarded situation — suggested the propriety 
of an immediate attack. A coimcil of war was assembled : the voice of 
the people declared for instant action, the Commander-in-Chief alone op- 
posed it. The discussion was warm and animated. The best spirit pre- 
vailed amongst the troops, — the proudest feelings had been roused by the 
bold exertions of the day, and those feelings had not yet subsided. The 
ammunition was insufficient for to-morrow, but ammunition was not want- 
ing for a night-attack, for the pike and the bayonet were more efficient. 
To-morrow might reinforce the enemy's ranks — to-night everything fa- 
voured an attack, while fortune seemed to have placed an easy victory 
within their reach. 

'' Such were the arguments advanced ; but the mind of Monroe was not 
to be changed, his resolution had been formed and remained immoveable. 
' We scorn,' said he, ' to avail ourselves of the ungenerous advantage which 
night affords ; — ^we will meet them in the blush of open day, — ^we will 
fight them like men ; not under the cloud of night, but the first rays of to- 
morrow's sun.' This determination was received with discontent by the 
troops, and many retired from the field. A division of nearly seven hun- 
dred men, and more generally armed with muskets than the rest, marched 
off in one body with their leader. Such was the romantic character of the 
man in whose hands was placed the destiny of thousands. 

'^ On the morning of the .13th, at the first dawn, Monroe formed his men 
for action ; and though their numbers had been sensibly diminished during 
the night, they betrayed no want of courage or confidence in their com- 
mander. He commenced the attack by a discharge from eight small pieces 
of ship cannon, which were drawn up against the town, and, under sdl cir- 
cmnstances, well served; these were promptly repHed to by the heavy 
artillery of the enemy. A strong division marched firom the hill, with the 
view of penetrating the town on the right ; while Monroe headed in per- 
son a more formidable column, directing his march to the left. General 
Nugent dispatched a body of troops to contend the ground with the former, 
who waited their approach, drawn up in a solid square, and received them 
with a destructive fire, which checked their advance ; but the officer com- 
manding the British troops having fallen, his men gave way and hastily 
retreated into the town. 

" The column led by Monroe consisted of the greater part of the disposable 
force which remained, and no men could have displayed greater courage 
and enthusiasm than they evinced in the advance. They bore down all op- 
position ; forced an entrance into the town, under the most destructive fire 
of musketry and cannon, repeated rounds of grape-shot sweeping whole 
ranks, which were as rapidly replaced. A piece of heavy artillery fell 


into tJie hands' of the plkemen, who charged to the Very muzzles of the 

** Monroe gained the centre of the town, where, exposed to a cross fire 
of musketry in the market-square, raked by the artillery, his ammunition 
exhausted, he pressed boldly on the enemy with the bayonet and the pike ; 
the charge was irresistible, and the British General ordered a retreat. 
Mere followed one of the most extraordinary scenes, unexampled perhaps 
in ancient or modem warfare. The United troops, .unacquainted with the 
trumpet's note, and enveloped by the smoke, which prevented a distinct 
iriew of the hurried movements in the British Hne, mistook the sounded re- 
treat for the signal of charge, and shrinking, as they conceived, from the 
advance of fresh numbers, fled with precipitation in a southerly direction from 
the town, while the British were as rapidly evacuating it on the north."* 

The consequence of this unlucky blunder was an utter rout. A regi- 
ment of British Light Dragoons, which had hitherto borne no part in the 
conflict, charged the flying insurgents, and were joined by the infantry, 
who speedily recovered from their panic. Monroe made every eflbrt to 
rally his men, and succeeded in regaining his former position on the hill of 
Ednevady. But the case was beyond a remedy. The enemy were rapidly 
encompassing him on all sides, and there was plainly no alternative be- 
tween instant flight and total destruction. Numbers fell in the retreat, for 
** the British never gave quarter." The town was pillaged and burned by 
the twice victorious royalists ; and, two days after the battle, Monroe was 
discovered, tried by court-martial, and executed in front of his own 


The rebellion in Ulster was now over. There was no recovering the re- 
verses of Antrim and Ballynahinch : the army of the Union dispersed at once, 
and once for all. But Uie cessation of hostilities brought with it no miti- 
gation of the people's suflerings. In the north, as in the south, the end of 
the rebellion was only the re-oommencement of the tyranny that had pro- 
voked it, with enlarged and multiplied powers, inflamed passions, more 
plausible pretences, and full license of impunity. Ulster, defenceless 
and subdued, now experienced again all the rigour and insolence of mili- 
tary despotism. Vast numbers of victims were hourly dragged to prison, 
or hurried before military tribunals whose whole judicial morality was sum- 
med up in " not bearing the sword in vain." Informations were stimulated 
by bribery, and extorted by intimidation; and the doctrine of '^misprision of 
treason" was put in force against those whom the claims of friendship or 
kindred prompted to give shelter to the proscribed ftigitives from military 
vengeance. But we are weary of this sickening monotony of crime and 
woe, and forbear. What was done in Ulster under the restored military 
tyranny, may be sufficiently inferred from what was said by the agents of 
a government always, in such matters, superabundantly faithful to its 
word. Military law in Belfast ran thus: — 

" Shall it be found hereafter that said traitor has been concealed by 
*' any person or persons, or by the knowledge or connivance of any person 

* "Personal Narrative," pp. 254-257. 

t Tceling adds— >* Where his wife, his mother, and his sister resided. His head was 
severed from his body, and exhibited upon the market-house on a pike, so situated as to 
be the first and the last object daily before the eyes of his desolate family." 



** or persons of this town and iU neighbouibood, or that they or any of 
'' them have known the place of his concealment and shall not have 
" g^Ten notice thereof to the commandant of this town, such person's 
** house will be humed, and the owner thereof hanged''* 

A proclamation of General Nugent's, about the same period, calling on 
the people to lay down their arms and deliver up their leaders, concludes 
with the following almost incredibly atrocious menace :^ 

" Should the above injunctions not be complied with within the time 
" specified, Major-General Nugent will proceed to set fire to and totally 
" destroy the towns of Killinchy, Killileagh, Ballynahinch, Saintfield, 
" and every cottage and farm-house in the vicinity of those places ; carry 
" off the stock and cattle, and put every one to the sword who may be 
" found in arms/'f 

The new reign of terror and cruelty, though sharp, was (in its worst 
features) of short duration. It was judged, by a power before which 
Orangeism itself must needs succumb, that Ireland had suffered enough. 
On the 20th of June a new Lord Lieutenant arrived in Dublin, the re- 
presentative of a new policy. Marquis Cobnwallis came with instruc- 
tions from the British cabinet to stop the course of military executions, to 
repress or mitigate the excesses of military and magisterial ferocity, to 

* Proclamation of Colonel Derham to the inhabitants of Belfast. 

t The following specimen of a magisterial and military dispatch (given by Dr. 
Madden) is worth preserving. The writer was a British colonel, holding the commission 
of the peace, and commanding a large district in the north under General Nugent : — 

** Newtawnards, 20th June, 1798. 

"Dear Sib, — I have had tolerable success to-day in apprehending the persons 
mentioned in the memorandum. The list is as follows. [Here follows a list containing 
twenty-seven names.] 

" We have burned Johnston's house at Crawford's-Boum Mills ; at Bangor, de- 
stroyed the furniture of Pat Agnew ; James Francis, and Gibbison, and Campbell's not 
finished yet ; at Ballyholme* burned the house of Johnston ; at the Demesnes, near Ban- 
gor, the houses of Jas. Richardson and John Scott; at Ballymaconnell Mills, burned 
the house of M^Connell, miller, and James Martin, a captain and a friend of M'Cul- 
lock's, hanged at Ballynahinch. 

" Groomsport, reserved. 

" Cotton, the same. ^ • 

" We hope you will think we have done tolerahly well. To-morrow we go to Porta- 
ferry, or rather to its neighbouihood. Ought we not to punish the gentlemen of the 
country, who have never assisted the well-disposed people, yeomanry, &c. ? For my 
own part, a gentleman of any kind, but more particularly a magistrate, who deserts his 
post at such a period, ought to be — I will not say what. • • * 

" List of inactive magistrates, or rather friends of the United Irishmen : — 

*• Sir John Blackwood. 

" John Crawford, of Crawford's-Bum. 

*< John Kennedy, Cultra, &c. 

" But, among others. Rev. Hu, Montgomery, of Rosemount, who is no friend to 
government or to its measures, and whom I strongly suspect. I have got his bailiff. 
Believe me, dear sir, 

" With the greatest respect and esteem, 

" Your most faithful servant, 

" L. Atherton. 

" I am apt to suspect you are misinformed about Smith, the innkeeper, of Donaghadee. 
The newspaper account is entirely false. The fellow's fled. I will endeavour to know 
more about him. I wish for no iatoyers here, except as my clerks" 


give repose to the bleeding, gasping land, and to extinguish the Irish 
nationality. By the end of the month the rebellion was over, except 
where (as in Kildare and Wicklow) small bands of insurgents still held 
out for terms ; and on the 29th, the first overture of peace was made in a 
viceregal proclamation, " Authorising his Majesty's generals to give pro- 
'^ tection to such insurgents as, being simply guilty of rebellion, should, 
** vnthin fourteen days, surrender their arms, desert their leaders, abjure all 
** unlawful engagements, and take the oath of allegiance to the king." 



When the general suppression of the rebellion gave the ministers leisure 
and breathing-time to resume the ordinary business of government, the 
first thing that occupied their attention was the disposal of the state 
prisoners, now including nearly every one of the United Irish leaders. 
The trials began with Henby and John Sheabes, whose case, as cha- 
racteristically illustrative of the temper of the times, deserves to be given 
more at length than the purpose and limits of this history will allow with 
regard to the prosecutions which followed. 

Henry and John Sheares were barristers by profession, gentlemen by 
birth and character ; beloved and honoured in Uie sphere of society in 
which they moved, and of good repute for all the domestic and civic 
virtues. In temperament these brothers were totally unlike each other, 
though closely united in affection. The elder was fond of society, and 
fitted to shine in it ; of an open, easy, pleasure-loving nature ; luxurious 
in his habits, expensive and showy in his tastes ; proud and impetuous in 
manner, but of a generous disposition ; by nature a liberal, good-hearted 
aristocrat, though fond of talking about republicanism. John Sheares waa 
a reading, thinking man ; intense, earnest, and concentrated. He lived 
simply and cheaply, *' bought nothing but books " — ^was, in his whole way 
of being and thinking, an enthusiastic republican.* The generous and 
just dispositions of the brothers made them political reformers ; a visit to 

* Dr. Madden (yoI. ii., p. 118 «^ seq.) gives the following account of the brothers' 
from the reminiscences of a lady recently dece-^sed, of the name of Maria Steele ; a 
name, he informs us, which ** will be associated with that of John Sheares, as that of 
Amelia Curran is with Robert Emmet's :" — 

" Both the brothers had been United Irishmen more than a year when I first knew 
them, in 1794 ; and they attended the meetings of that society, as many others then did. 
A speech that was made at one of those meetings gave Lord Clare an opportunity of 
speaking disrespectfully of them in the House of Lords, the consequence of which was 
a demand for an explanation from the eldest. They had become United Irishmen at the 
same time; but there was nothing legally criminal in their proceedings till 1798. * * « 

" Henry lived beyond his income ; his affairs were somewhat embarrassed, and he 
sold a part of his property ; he also borrowed a good deal from John, wlio at one time 
wished to reside apart from his brother, but could not on that account. He was suc- 
cessful at the bar, till the Chancellor became the enemy of the brothers. Lord Clare's 


PariB in 1792, when they became acquamted unth Roland, Brissot, and 
other men of the revolution, made them agitators. They came home, and 
joined the Dublin Society of United Irishmen, over whose meetings we 

enmity was chiefly against Henry. John had no quarrel with him ; but on their convic- 
tion, it is said, he could not be spared and Henry put to death. After Henry's corres- 
pondence with the Chancellor, he prevented them from doing business in his court as 
lawyers. John then became exasperated, and spoke more severely of him than he had 
done before, on account of his politics. He always thought him an enemy to Ire- 
land. When I knew the brothers, in 1794, they had been at the bar some time, and 
lived together in Henry Sheares's house, in fiagot-etreet. 

** Henry Sheares was naturally high-spirited, eloquent in discourse, and possessed of 
a remarkably martial and noble bearing ; but his great hauteur and want of discretion 
would have made him a bad leader in any public cause. In his domestic relations he was 
warm, tender, indulgent ; willing to promote every present amusement, but wanting 
calculation and foresight for the future. I have always heard he was a fair scholar ; 
and have heard good judges say that they had never seen a library so admirably selected 
as that of the Sheares's. Henry was not considered so deeply read as John. He did 
not give so much time to study, but he never appeared deficient in company, either 
with the learned, or with those whose reading lay more amongst works of imagination 
and modern literature. He spoke with great fluency and elegance on literary subjects, 
but not without a degree of characteristic pride. His disposition was most generous ; 
but he was not patient or forbearing. He would have made a good despot, if there can 
be such a thing. He spoke with much violence at times, even in society; but though 
haughty, and sometimes fierce, he was not of a cruel temper. He used to talk of repub- 
licanism, but he was formed for courts — ^he loved power, and splendour, and luxury. 
The self-denying virtues he knew not. He was, however, an accomplished gentleman, 
fond of society, and capable of adding lustre to the most brilliant circle. « * « 

" When I first became acquainted with the brothers, in 1794, 1 heard that John was 
six-and-twenty, and Henry about five-and-thirty. The latter looked a great deal older 
than his brother. John was considered greatly superior to his brother in talents. My 
intimacy with him commenced in 1794 ; at that time he was in the habit of attending 
the meetings of the United Irishmen. He was a firm republican in his principles, but 
was a stranger to violence of any kind, till his mind was overwhelmed. His character 
seemed changed after Christmas, 1797 ; he was very desirous then to leave Ireland. 

" In regard to the proclamation found in his desk, I believe he was the writer of it ; 
though that was never fully proved. At the time when it was supposed to have been 
written, he appeared so altered, that those who used to delight in listening to him 
would scarce know him. His mind seemed to have lost its balance. Even his dress 
was not the same — ^his hair was neglected, &c. &c. In March, 1798, he became a 
member of the Directory, and then first took any active part in the rebellion. I do not 
think he desired a revolution, till at a very late period of the struggle. In becoming a 
United Irishman, his views were — like those of all the educated and honourable persons 
of the society — Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform. At first there were 
more Protestants than Roman Catholics engaged in it ; and much more in the north 
than any other quarter of the kingdom ; — it was latterly that it became a religious 
struggle. I might say that John Sheares was naturally inclined to republicanism ; but 
he afterwards thought that Roman Catholics were not suited for republican institutions. 
He used to laugh at titles, and make little of grandeur; and, with respect to resistance, 
he thought no war justifiable but a defensive one. His characteriBtic qualities were 
benevolence and filUd and fraternal aflection — a love of *his fellow-creatures, and an 
anxiety to befriend them. As a son, as a brother, as a friend, I have never seen him 
surpassed. • * ♦ 

" The brothers loved one another with extraordinary affection ; and yet they were 
very different in their tastes and sentiments. Henry talked about republicanism, but 
Jolm was an enthusiast in his attachment to it ; all his habits of thinking tended that way. 
It suited the simplicity of his character, and the total absence of vanity that distin- 
guished him ; but he often said it would not do for Ireland. 

" In his person he differed strikingly from his brother. His air was gentle and un- 
assuming, but animated and interesting. You ask, was he of a sanguinary disposition ? 
He was quite the reverse: he had a most tender heart, and benevolent disposition. 
While he was himself, he would not give pain of mind or body to anything that lived." 


find them occasionally presiding in the course of the year 1793. It does 
not appear, however, that they carried agitation the length of conspiracy 
xmtil 1798; when, on the arrests of the 12th of March, the Union was 
saved from the instant and utter disorganisation which menaced it, hy 
John Sheares assuming the vacant directorate. Of his utter unfitness for 
the post — ^rash, boastful, garrulous as he was, at a time when not all the 
dissimulation of a Borgia and caution of a William the Silent could have 
saved the conspiracy from eventful wreck and ruin — ^we have abready had 
a specimen.* It can occasion no surprise that such a conspirator fell an 
easy prey to the spy and informer. The history of his and his brother's 
betrayal, which we proceed to give as it appeared in evidence on their trial, 
is an apt and compendious illustration of the morality of the Clare-and 
Castlereagh government and the agents whom it employed and patronised, 
and at the same time most instructively shows the inherent weakness and 
peril of secresy in political organisation. 

On the 10th of May, Captain John Wabnefoei> Abmstbong,! of the 
King's County Militia, then stationed with a company of his regiment at Le- 
. haimstown (or LoughHnstown) camp, near the metropolis, came into Dublin, 
and made an apparently casual call at the shop of a Mr. Byrne, a book* 
seller, in Grafton Street. This Byrne was a United Irishman of high 
standing in the society, dealt largely in ultra-liberal publications, both 
political and theologicd, and his establishment was a kind of literary head- 
quarters, or general gossip-mart, for the patriot leaders. Armstrong was 
well known to Byrne — at least, so the latter thought. He had been a regular 
customer and constant visitor at the shop almost every day for two years, 
and was a diligent purchaser of " every political pamphlet as it came out, 
and other books he fancied." His " fancies" were very liberal and com- 
prehensive, extending to the " Rights of Man" and the "Age of Reason." 
In the course of conversation on this 10th of May, a wish was expressed 
by the one, and reciprocated by the other, that Byrne should take an early 
opportunity of introducing Armstrong to the brothers Sheares. j: 

Immediately on leaving Byrne's, Armstrong went to his brother-officer 
and particular friend. Captain Clibbom, informed him of what had passed, 
and asked his advice. Clibbom's advice was that the offer of an introduc- 
tion to the brothers should be accepted. Armstrong lost no time ; he re- 
turned to Byrne's that same day, and remained there till Henry Sheares 
arrived. The introduction then took place. Byrne opened a door leading 
into a private room behind his shop, presuming that the new friends might 
" have a mind to chat," and smootiied the way to confidential intercourse 
with — ^* All I can say to you, Mr. Sheares, is that Captain Armstrong 
is a trtie brother^ and you may depend upon him." 

Henry Sheares, however, had not " a mind to chat." He met the Cap- 
tain's overtures with the answer, that ** what he wanted to say he vrished 
to say in the presence of his brother." Armstrong obligingly replied, that 
" he had no objection to wait till his brother came." But Sheares declined 

* See page 152. 

t We learn from Dr. Madden (vol. ii., p. 113) that this gentleman is still living, 
.*• and has long been distinguished for his zeal and activity in the magisterial office.*' 

i In his direct examination, Armstrong makes it appear that the introduction was 
proposed by Byrne. His cross-examination on this point elicited the significant an- 
swer — " I do not know with whom the tpish originated" 

214 ttlSTOBT OF THE 

wdting, and left the shop. Shortly afterwards John Sheares arrived, and 
the ceremony of introduction was repeated, ** pretty much in the same 
manner as before." The following conversation was then held in the 
inner room, with closed doors (we quote from Ridgeway's Report of the 

'* John said, he knew my princ^les very well: that he was em- 
boldened by that knowledge, and the pressure of events induced him, for 
the good of the cause, to make himself known to me, and to show me how 
the cause could be benefited by my joining the cause in action, as he knew 
I had by inclination. I told him, I rocu ready to do everything in my 
power for it. 

** Meaning the cause? — ^Yes ; and that if he would show me how I 
could do anything^ 1 would serve Mm to the utmost of my power. 

^^ Did he state to you in what manner you could serve this cause to 
which he thus alluded ? — ^He said, that as I was willing to serve it, he 
would tell me at once what I could do. He told me that the rising 
was very near; that they could not wait for the French, but had de- 
termined upon a home exertion ; and that the principal manner in which 
I could assist them was by seducing the soldiers, and bringing about 
the King's County Militia; and consulting with him about taking the 

^^ Court: What camp? — The camp at Lehaunstown, I understood, 
where I was quartered. And that, for the purpose of bringing about the 
soldiers, he would recommend me to endeavour to practise upon the non- 
commissioned officers and privates, who were of the Roman Catholic reli- 
gion, as they were most likely to think themselves aggrieved. I do not 
recollect anything more of the conversation that day, except our appoint- 
ment to meet the Sunday following."* 

The appointment was faithfully kept on the Captain's part. On the 
morning of Sunday, the ISth of May, he went to the Sheares's house 
in Bagot Street. Henry only was at home. The suspicions of the latter 
had, it would seem, by this time been removed : he apologised to Arm- 
strong for having so abruptly left him on the occasion of their first meet- 
ing, '^ for that f^ere was a committee sitting, which it was necessary that 
either he or his brother should attend." A confidential conversation then 
ensued. *' He asked me as to the state of the regiment, and the situation 
of the camp ; where it was most vulnerable, and the number of troops sta- 
tioned there. He questioned me as to the possibility of taking it by storm, 
or by treachery, or by using the counter-sign, or something of that kind." 
Presently, the younger brother came in, and these perilous confidences 
were carried stUl further. John Sheares informed Armstrong that '* it was 
their intention to seize the camp, the artillery at Chapelizod, and the city 
of Dublin, in one night ; there was to be one hour and a half between the 
seizing of the camp and Dublin, and an hour between seizing Dublin and 
Chapelizod, so that the news of both might arrive at the same time." He 
spoke of the importance of gaining over the soldiers, and solicited Arm- 
strong's services with the men of the King's County regiment. The in- 
former's reply was—'* He should be afraid to commit himself with any of 

♦ Howell's " Collection of State Trials," vol. xxviL 


tfaem; bui if he knew them, he should then do what he could in concert 
'with them." Another appointment was made, and another interview was 
held late that night, for the purpose of giving Armstrong the names of 
some men in his regiment whose co-operation might be depended on. 

The Captain was indefatigable in his attentions to his new friends. Twice 
on the Wednesday following, twice again on the Thursday, he repeated 
his visits in Bagot-street, returning in the intervals to Lehaunstown camp, 
communicating everything that passed to Colonel L'Estrange and Captain 
Clibbom — sometimes to Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Cooke — and taking their 
instructions as to his further proceedings.* On Sunday, the 20th, he paid 
his final visit to the brothers ; obtained full particulars as to the plan of the 
Dublin rising, the intended seizure of the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council, 
&c.; received a promise from the Executive Directory of a colonelcy in the- 
r«bel army; and was considerately "recommended" by Henry Sheares 
^' to be cautious ; for that he and his brother had escaped by their 
caution, for government then thought them inactive"^ The next 
morning the brothers were arrested, and lodged in Kilmainham gaoL 

Even yet the informer was not quite satisfied ; nor was the faith of his 
victims shaken. " Other informers," says the biographer of the United 
Irishmen, "when they have once wormed themselves into the confidence of 
their victims, and have possessed themselves sufficiently of their secrets 
to bring them to the scafibld, rest from their labours, and spare themselyes 
the unnecessary annoyance, perhaps a feeling of remorse, at beholding the 
unfortunate vnretches they have deceived, when they are fairly in their toils 
and delivered over to the proper authorities. In Ireland, there is no such 
squeamishness in the breasts of our informers." A few hours after the 
arrest, John Sheares received, in the Castle guard-room, a visit of friend" 
ship and condolence from his betrayer. The prisoner asked "if his 
brother was taken ;" to which Armstrong replied, " I do not know." He 
anxiously inquired "if his papers were seized," and was again answered, 
" I do not know." Sheares said " he hoped not, for there was one among 
them that would commit him." 

The dangerous paper here alluded to, which was much relied on by the 
crovm at the trial as an overt act of treason, was a certain proclamation, 
designed for use in the anticipated event of the insurrection proving sue- 
cessfrd. It was, without question, a violent and infuriated production ; 
breathing out threatenings and slaughter, war and vengeance, at a most 
vehement rate, against the oppressors of Ireland. We may best charac- 
terise it by saying, that its words are almost as sanguinary and vindictive as 
the every-day deeds of the detestable government which was making wise 
men mad, and good men savage. This document was found, in a scrawled 
and imfinished state, in John Sheares's writing desk. It was in his hand* 
writing ; and not a particle of proof was adduced, direct or circumstantial, 

* He says, in his evidence — ** I never had an interview with the Messrs. Sheares that 
I had not one with Colonel L'Estiange and Captain Clibbom, and my Lord Castlereagh." 

t *' Captain Armstrong did not think it necessary to state, that at his Sunday's inter- 
view he shared the hospitality of his victims ; that he dined with them, sat in the com- 
pany of their aged mother and affectionate sister, enjoyed the society of the accomplished 
wife of one of them, caressed his infant children: and on another occasion (referred to 
by Miss Steele) was entertained with music, the wife of the unfortunate man, whose 
Children he was to leave in a few days fatherless, playing on the harp for his enter* 
tainment i'* — Madden. 


to connect hiB brother with it; there is, in &ct, every reason to beKeye that 
Henry Sheares had never seen it, and was altogether ignorant of its 

« See, on this point, the eridenee of Mr. Aldennan Alexander, the magiBtrate who 
arreeted the brothers. John Sheeret, while liilly preptzed for his own fiOe, eeeme nerer 
to haye doubted of the acquittal of hie brother. Had thej been tried sepantely, instead 
of together, the result, as regarded Henry, might have been different. 

We subjoin the document in question, as it was produced in evidence on the triaL 
The words in italics were interlined ; those between crotchets were struck across with 

" I&ISHMBM, — [** Your country is free ; all those Monsters who usurped Its Govemment 
to oppress its people are in our hands, except such as have] 

** Your country is free, and you are about to be avenged [already] that Vile Govern* 
ment which has so long and so cruelly oppressed you, is no more ; some of its most 
Atrocious Monsters have already paid tiie forfeit of their Lires, and the rest are in our 
hands [waiting their fate.] The National flag, the Sacred Grtm, is at this Moment flying 
over the Ruins of Despotism, and that Capital which, a few hours past [was the Scene] 
Witnessed the Debauchery, the [Machinations] plots and Crimes of your Tyrants, is now 
the Citadel of Triumphant Patriotism and Virtue. Arise then. United Sons of Ireland ; 
arise like a great and powerful people. Determined to [live] be free or die. Arm Your- 
selves by every means in your power, and Rush like lions on your Foes ; Consider that, 
[in Disuming your Enemy] for every Enemy you disarm, you arm a friend, and thus 
become doubly powerful; In the Cause of Liberty, inaction is Cowardice, and the Coward 
shall forfeit tiie property he has not the Courage to protect; Let his Arms be Seized 
and Transferred to those Gallant [Patriots] Spirits who want, and will nse them ; Yes, 
Irishmen, we swear by that eternal Justice, in whose Cause you flght, that the brave 
Patriot, who survives tiie present glorious Struggle, and the family of him who has fallen, 
or shall fall hereafter in it, shall Receive from the hands of a grateful Nation, an ample 
recompence out of [those funds] that property which the Crimes of our Enemies [shaU] 
have Forfeited into its hands, and his Name [too] shall be Inscribed on the National 
Record of Irish Revolution, as a glorious Example to all posterity. Bui we likewise swear . 
to punish Bobbery with death and Infamtf, 

*' We also swear, that we wUl never Sheathe the Sword until every [person] being in 
the Country is restored to those equal Rights, which the God of Nature has given to all 
men. Until an Order of things shall be established, in which no Superiority shall be 
acknowledged among the Citizens of Erin, but that [wLich] of Virtue and Talent [shall 
Intitle to]. 

[*' As for those degenerate Wretches who turn their swords against their Native 
Country, the National Vengeance awaits them : Let them find no quarter, unless they shaU 
prove their Repentance by speedily deserting. Exchanging from the Standard of Slavery, 
for that of Freedom, under which their former errors maybe buried, and they may Share 
the Glory and advantages that are due to the Patriot Bands of Ireland]. 

" Many of the Military feel the love of Liberty glow within their Breasts, and have [already 
to] joined the National Standard ; receive [those J with open Arms, such as shall follow so 
so glorious an Example, they can render Signal Service to the Cause of freedom, and shall be 
rewarded according to their deserts: But for the Wretch who turns his Sword against 
his Native Country, let the National Vengeance be visited upon him, let him find no 
Quarter, Two othex Crimes demand — 

"Rouse all the Energies of your Souls; call forth all the Merit and abilities which a 
Vicious Government Consigned to obscurity, and under the Conduct of your Chosen 
Leaders March with a Steady Step to Victory; heed not the Glare of [a Mercenary] hired 
Soldiery, or Aristocratic Yeomanry, they cannot stand the Vigorous Shock of Freemen [close 
with them Man to Man ; and let them see what Vigour the cause of Freedom can.] Their 
Trappings and their arms will soon be yours, and the Detested Government of England 
to which we Vow eternal hatred, shall learn, that the Treasures [she, it] they ExhausU 
on [their mercenary] its accoutred Slaves for the purpose of Butchering Irishmen, shall 
but further enable us to turn their Swords on its devoted head. 

"Attack them in every direction by day and by night: avaU yourselves of the 
Natural Advantages of your country, which are Innumerable, and with which you are 
better acquainted than they ; Where you Cannot Oppose them in full force, Constantly 


The trial took place on the 12th of July, the chief evidence against the 
prisoners heing Captain Armstrong's revelations, and John Sheares*8 
proclamation. The case was opened hy the Attorney-General Toleb 
(afterwards the pimning Lord Norbury) — a man after Lord Chancellor 
Olare's own heart, specially appointed for the occasion — ^in a speech which, 
for licence of insinuation, and mis-statement, and virulence of invective, has 
no parallel in English juridical history since the seventeenth century. He 
*' thanked God that he lived to address that venerable bench and that 
upright jury," leaving it to the terror-struck fancies of the jurors to " con- 
jecture whether it was likely he should have done so under all the circum- 
stances, if such calumniators had governed." And of the proclamation, he 
eloquently asks— '^ Who is there that can read this bloody scroll, and not 
pronounce judgment upon the intention and imagination of the heart which 
composed it ? And whilst I thus behold it, methinks I have in full and 
palpable form before me the sanguinary author penning it, with his bloody 
dagger in one hand, and pointing in triumph to the revolutionary tribunal 
and guillotine with the other." How the sanguinary author could perform 
•so many fimctions simultaneously, with only one pair of hands, this 
eloquent Irish Attorney-General omits to explain. Toler had probably 
something else in " full and palpable form" before him. He knew that he 
could not better recommend himself to his patron, than by remembering 
that one of the prisoners had crossed Mr. Fitzgibbon in love sixteen years 

The result of the trial scarcely needs to be told : but some of the cir- 
cumstances of it deserve to be kept in historic memory. The Captain, . 
fresh from his military exploits in the Wicklow mountains — where he had 
been busy, a few weeks before, whipping, shooting, and hanging peasants 
at discretion — ^gave his evidence with all the confidence of a man conscious 
of having deserved well of his king and country. It was in vain that the 
prisoner's counsel attempted to damage and discredit his testimony, by 
bringing some of his near relations and most intimate friends to swear that 
they had repeatedly heard him talk atheism in theology and treason in 
politics, deride the obligation of an oath, and intimate the pleasure he 
would feel in executing the last sentence of the law on the person of 
his Majesty King George III.* The Captain's confession of faith, that 

liarasB their Rear and their flanks ; cut off their provisions and Magazines and prevent 
them as much as possible from Uniting their forces; let whatever Moments you 
Cannot [pass in] Devote to fighting for your Ctountry, be [Devoted to] passed in learning 
how to . fight for it, or preparing the means of War, for War, War alone must occupy 
eveiy mind and every hand in Ireland, until its long oppressed SoU be purged of 
all its enemies. 

" Vengeance, Irishmen, Vengeance on Your Oppressors — Remember what thousands 
of your dearest friends have perished by their [Murders, Cruel plots] Merciless Orders; 
Remember their burnings, their rackings, their torturings, their Military Massacres, 
and their legal Murders. Remember Ore." 

♦ We extract the following from the evidence of his cousin, Mr. Thomas Drought ; — 

" Do you know Captain John Wameford Armstrong ? — I know Captain John Wame- 
ford Armstrong. 

" Have you known him long ? — From his infancy. 

** In what county do you reside ? — In the King's County for some years past. 

" Is it your place of birth ? — No, sir ; I was bom in the Queen's County. 
- ** Have you been intimate with Captain Armstrong ? — ^Very much so, while he was in 
Ireland, and while I was here ; for 1 lived in England several years myself. 

" Do you recollect to have heard him express any particular opinion that he enter- 


day, came up to the standard of juridical orthodoxy ; and a wound recently 
received in the public service, sufficiently redeemed his character for 

tained, with respect to the existence of God, or a future existence of the soul ? — I have 
frequently heard him utter atheistical opinions. 

" What opinions do you call atheistical ? — A disbelief of a supreme intelligent Being. 

" Have you heard him express any opinion of the existence of the soul of man ? — I 
have ; perfect annihilation. 

" After what you have mentioned, it may be called an Irish question ; but can you 
mention what his notion was of rewards and punishments, of the state of the soul after 
annihilation ? — I do not know, but he said it was eternal sleep : non-existence. 

" Have you heard him express these kind of opinions with apparent serioufiness and 
deliberation ? — Am if they were his real sentiments ; I have heard him mention them 
at breakfast. 

*' Did it seem, or did he utter them as a kind of idle rant, as if he thought it an idle 
thing, or did he utter them as his proper sentiments ? — With his usual calmness, not 
with more levity than usual. 

" Do you mean to say that this happened more than once ? — It happened generally 
when I had an opportunity of talking with him upon that subject. 

" Do you recoUect having passed by his lodging in Grafton-street since the unfortu- 
nate expedition of Colonel Walpole ? — I do recollect to have passed from Stephen's- 
green to Grafton-street about five o'clock in the evening of Friday, the 29th of June. 
He was ridiculing the idea of Papists fasting upon that day ; that makes me remembef 
it was Friday. 

" How came you to his lodgings ? — I heard a person call out, ' Holloa !' I saw a per- 
son beckon at the window. I knocked at the door, and was received by him up-etairs. 

" What conversation ensued ? — The conversation principally concerned the engage- 
ment, and the wound he had received : we had some discourse respecting the number 
of people killed upon each side. 

** Do you recollect anything respecting tico or three peasants t — ^Yes ; after talking of 
the number of people killed, I inquired as to those killed on the other side, whether 
they were all killed in the field, and with arms in their hands ? He said there were two 
or three caught at a distance ; that one was hanged in consequence of having refused to 
give information ; another, I believe, was suspended, and Captain Armstrong said he 
cut him down ; but one was hanged outright : and we both agreed that it was not a 
good way to make him confess ; and that upon his suggestion, the fellow that was sus- 
pended — or had the rope about his neck, I am not sure which — was ordered to receive 
twenty-five lashes, and when he received eight, he called out with vociferation that h% 
would give information ; that he then led them on, and said the person who was hanged 
could have givea the same information, though he suffered himself to be hanged. I 
asked him how he could possibly reconcile it to himself to deprive those wretches of 
life, without even the form of trial ? He acknowledged that they did so. I asked him 
whether he expected any punishment for it, and though he did not expect it from govern- 
ment, yet that there was an All-powerful Being, who would punish him. He said, 
* You know my opinion long ago upon this subject,* " 

Armstrong's own account of this affair, in cross-examination, was as follows : — 

^* One was to be hanged, the other was to be flogged. We were going up Blackmore 
Hill, under Sir James Duff; there was a party of rebels there. We met three men with 
green cockades. One we shot, another we hanged, and the third we flogged and made 
a guide of. 

" Which did you make the guide of ? — The one that waa neither shot nor hanged." 

He had no recollection of the rest of the conversation reported by Mr. Drought. 

Lieutenant Shervington, of the 4lBt regiment, deposed, on the trial, that "he wa« 
nephew, by marriage, of Captain Armstrong, and had known him since his childhood. 
When in Lord Cork's regiment, in England, had conversations with him. Did not think 
his principles exactly such as a military man's should be. Had a conversation with him 
at his agent's, Mr. Mulholland. Talked of various things— the French Revolution— and he 
said he did not wish for kingly government. He said, that if there was not another exe- 
cutioner in the kingdom for George III. but himself, he would be one, and pique him- 
self upon being so. I told him he was a d — d fellow, and ought to give up his commis- 
sion and leave the army, and go over to F»auce." 


It "Was past midnight when the examination of the witnesses closed. 
"Worn to utter exhaustion by the fatigue of a fifteen-hours' sitting, Curran 
protested to the Court that he was " unequal to the duty " of defending the 
prisoners, and implored ** a few hours* interval for repose, or rather for 
recollection." The few hours' interval was refused. The Court con- 
sulted the Attorney-General, and the Attorney-General " felt such public 
inconvenience from adjourning cases of that kind, that he could not con- 
sent." He added that " great concessions " had been made to the prisoners 

The trial went on. " The surviving spectators of this memorable 
scene," says the son and biographer of the advocate, " speak of it as 
marked by indescribable solemnity. The fate that impended over the un- 
fortunate brothers — the perturbed state of Ireland — the religious influence 
of the hour — the throng of visages in the galleries, some of them dis- 
figured by poverty, others betraying by their impassioned expression a 
consciousness of participation in the offence for which the accused were 
about to suffer, and all of them rendered haggard and spectral by the dim 
lights that discovered them : the very presence of those midnight lights so 
associated in Irish minds with images of death,*— everything combined to 
inspire the beholders, who were now enfeebled by exhaustion, with a 
superstitious awe, and to make the objects, amidst which the advocate 
rose to perform the last offices to his sinking clients, appear not so much a 
reality, as the picture of a strained and disturbed imagination."! 

Between seven and eight o'clock the next morning, after sitting for 
nearly twenty- three hours continuously, the jury retired for seventeen mi- 
nutes, and found a verdict of Guilty against both the prisoners. As soon 
as it was pronounced, the brothers clasped each other in their arms. 

At three o'clock in the afternoon the Court sat again. The prisoners 
were placed at the bar ; the clerk of the crown read the indictment, and 
asked them '* what they had to say why judgment of death and execution 
should not be awarded against them according to law ?" 

Henry Sheares spoke first : — " My lord, as I had no notion of dying 
such a death as I am about to meet, I have only to ask your lordship for 
sufficient time to prepare myself and my family for it. I have a wife and 
six children, and hope your humanity will allow me some reasonable time 
to settle my affairs, and make a provision for them." Here he was so over- 
whelmed with tears, that he could not proceed. 

John Sheares then addressed the Court. He had no favour to ask for 
himself: — " My country has decided that I am guilty; and the law says 
that I shall suffer : it sees that I am ready to suffer. '' But, my 
lords, I have a favour to request of the Court that does not relate 
to myself. My lords, I have a brother, whom I have ever loved dearer 
than myself; but it is not from any affection for him alone that I am 
induced to make the request ; — ^he is a man, and therefore, I hope, pre- 
pared to die, if he stood as I do— though I do not stand unconnected ; — ^but 
he stands more dearly connected. In short, my lords, to spare your feel- 
ings and my own, I do not pray that /should not die; but that the hus- 
band, the father, the brother, and the son, all comprised in one person, 

* Midnight sittings were not unusual in the Irish state trials of this period, 
t " Life of Curran," by his Son, vol. ii., p. 17. 


holding these relations, dearer in life to him than any other man I know l — 
for such a man I do not pray a pardon, for that is not in the power of the 
Court ; but I pray a respite for such time as the Ck>urt, in its bumaoity 
and discretion, shall think proper. You have heftrd, my lords, that his 
private affairs require arrangement. I have a farther room for asking* it. 
If inmxediately both of us be taken off, an aged and revered mother, a dear 
sister, and the most affectionate wife that ever lived, and six children, will 
be left without protection or provision of any kind. When I address myself 
to your lordships, it is with tiie knowledge you will have of all the sons of 
our aged mother being gone. Two have perished in the service of the king- 
one very recentiy. I only request that, disposing of me with what swift- 
ness either the public mind or justice requires, a respite may be given to 
my brother, that the family may acquire strength to bear it all. That is 
all I wish. I shall remember it to my last breath ; and I will offer up my 
prayers for you to that Being who has endued us all with sensibility to feeL 
Thiis is all I ask. I have nothing more to say." 

This manly and touching appeal was met by the Attorney-General with 
a prayer " that execution may be done upon the prisoners to-morrow :^* 
to which the Court responded, be it so — ^and it was so. 

In conformity with the almost incredibly cruel custom of that cruel time, 
no member of their family was allowed to see them. 

The trial of the Sheareses was followed by that of John M*Cann, on the 
17th of July; of William Michael Bybne, on the 20th (these were 
two of the Leinster delegates arrested on the 12th of March); and of 
Olivee Bond, on the 23rd.* They were severally convicted of high 
treason, on the evidence chiefly of Thomas Reynolds. Notwithstanding 
the condition on which Reynolds gave his evidence,! M'Cann was exe- 
cuted two days after the trial. Whether Reynolds indignantly protested 
against the execution, as a breach of faith, we know not; but, in point of 
fact, the executions did not go on, the trials did not go on. Byrne and 
Bond were respited ; and negociations were conmienced between govem- 

* It ifi worth recording, as characteristic of the times, that on Bond's trial Corraa 
was repeatedly interrupted in his defence of the prisoner, and obliged to sit down, by 
bursts of tumultuous menace from the auditory. We find the following in Howell's 
"State Trials:"— 

" * Gentlemen of the jury — Much pains has been taken to warm you, and then you are 
entreated to be cool ; when the fire has been kindled, it has been spoken to, and prayed 
to be extinguished. What is that ? [Here Mr. Curran was again interrupted by the 
tumult of the auditors ; it was the third time that he had been obliged to sit down : on 
rising, he continued,] \ have very little, scarce any hope of being able to discharge my 
duty to my unfortunate client — ^perhaps most unfortunate in having me for his advocate. 
I know not whether to impute these inhuman interruptions to mere accident; but I 
greatly fear they have been excited by prejudice.' 

" [The Court said they would punish any person who dared to interrupt the counsel for 
the prisoner. * Pray, Mr. Curran, proceed on stating your case : we will take care, with 
the blessing of God, that you shall not be interrupted.'] " 

The interruption was occasioned, we are told by the advocate's biographer, by " a 
clash of arms among the military that thronged the court : some of those who were 
nearest to him appeared, from their looks and gestures, about to offer him personal 
violence, upon which, fixing his eye sternly upon them, he exclaimed, * You may assas- 
sinate, but you shall not intimidate me.' " — ** Life," vol ii., p. 66. 

Curran often received in court anonymous letters, threatening his life shoidd he utter a 
syllable calculated to bring discredit on the government and its measures. 

t See page 152, note. 


ment and the prisoners, by which (with one exception most disgraceful to 
the gOTeniment) the further effusion of blood on the scaffold was spared. 

'With whom the idea of this negociation originated does not clearly ap- 
pear. It was practically carried into eff*ect by the exertions of Mr. Francis 
Dobbs, a liberal member of the Irish parHament and an old major of Volun- 
teers, who, about the 22nd of July, undertook the office of mediator 
between the government and the prisoners. Both parties had, in truth, 
a common interest in coming to terms. As regarded the prisoners — the 
insurrection vas at an end ; the cause and objects of the Union were ut- 
terly and hopelessly defeated ; no possible public good could result from 
the rejection of conditions not absolutely dishonourable. On the side of 
the government, nothing was to be gained by going on with the trials and 
executions, while the disclosures likely to be elicited under an amnesty- 
compact would have a valuable political use with the British parliament 
and people, as justificatory of the coercive system of the preceding years. 
The new Lord Lieutenant was not a man of blood, either by temper 
or policy; his mission was amnesty, conciliation, and the Legislative 
Union. Castlereagh himself was not vindictive; his thoughts ran less 
on cruelty for cruelty's sake, than on " strengthening the hands of govern- 
ment." Lord Chancellor Clare was left alone in the opinion that every 
United Irishman ought to be hanged.* The consequence of this state of 
things was that, after a week of hesitation and delay on the part of the 
prisoners, who were required to be imanimous, and of evasion, higgling, 
and crue Itrickery on the part of ministers— during which they executed 
JByrne by way of expediting the business, and then raised their terms — 
the following compact was agreed on, signed by seventy-three prisoners, 
and accepted by the government : — 

" That the imdersigned state prisoners, in the three prisons of New- 
'^ gate, Kilmainham, and Bridewell, engage to give every information in 
*' their power of the whole of the internal transactions of the United 
*' Irishmen ; and that each of them shall give detailed information of every 
*' thing that has passed between the United Irishmen and foreign states ; 
^* but that the prisoners are not, by naming or describing, to implicate 
" any person whatever ; and that they are ready to emigrate to such 
** country as shall be agreed upon between them and Government, and 
** give secmity not to return to this country without the permission of 
*' Government, and not to pass into any enemy's country, if, on so doing, 
" they are to be freed from prosecution ; and also Mr. Bond be permitted 
'' to take the benefit of this proposal. The state prisoners also hope that 
'* it may be extended to such persons in custody, or not in custody, as may 
** choose to benefit by it. 

*'BvM%n, 29M Julxf^ 1798." 

*' The last clause," says Neilson, in his Narrative of this aflTair, " which 
is in fact, the spirit of the agreement, was intentionally worded in this 
loose manner at the instance of government, to save appearances on their 

* ''The Chancellor affirmed that constructive treason w<u law ; and that, if Ms advice 
had heenfolloioed, every member of the Union would have been prosecuted for treason; to 
which I replied that he nmst have prosecuted the people of Ireland to extermination, 
as nearly the whole population was of the Union against which he was to draw his 
bill of indictment ; a fact from which neither you nor the Chancellor could withhold 
your assent." — ^Arthuk O'Connor's Letter to Lord Castlereagh, 


side ; for it was particularly and expressly conditioned and settled that 
government was pledged to this point; and upon its being desired to 
have the particular expression more precise, the Chancellor said, * Ji 
comes to this .* either you mtist trust us, or roe must trust you. A 
government which could violate engagements thus solemnly made^ 
neither could standi nor deserved to standi Lord Castlereagh and 
Mr. Cooke concurred, and declared in the strongest manner that the whole 
of what had been agreed upon should be adhered to with the utmost 
liberality and good faith on the part of government."* 

Thomas Addis Emmet gives the same account of this transaction: — 

*' In no part of this paper were details or perfect accuracy deemed ne- 
cessary, because the ministers, and particularly Lord Castlereagh, fre- 
quently and solemnly declared that it should in every part be construed 
by government with the utmost Uberality and good faith ; and particularly 
the last clause was worded in this loose manner, to comply with the express 
desire of the ministers, who insisted upon retaining to government the 
entire popularity of the measure ; but it was clearly and expressly under- 
stood, and positively engaged, that every leading man not guilty of de- 
liberate murder should be included in the agreement, who should choose to 
avail himself of it, in as full and ample a manner as the contracting parties 
themselves, and that there should be a general amnesty, with the same 
exceptions, for the body of the people."! 

Emmet thus explains the views and objects of the United Irish leaders 
in this negociation ; — 

" We entered into this agreement the more readily, because it appeared 
to us that by it the public cause lost nothing. We knew, from the 
different examinations of the state prisoners before the Privy Council, and 
from conversations with ministers, that government was already in posses- 
sion of all the important knowledge which they could obtain from us. 
From whence they derived their information was not entirely known to us; 
but it is now manifest that Reynolds, Maguan, and Hughes, not to speak 
of the minor infoimers, had put them in possession of every material fact 
respecting the internal state of the Union ; and it was from particular cir- 

* The whole of Neilson's " Narrative of Facts," given by Dr. Madden (Second 
Series, vol.i., p. 153 et seq,) will repay perusal. 

t See Madden, Second Series, vol. ii. p. 101. 

The promise of a " general amnesty" was afterwards kept, with the usual Punic faith 
of the Clare-and-Castlereagh government, by an act granting his Majesty's pardon for all 
acts of treason and sedition committed up to the 22nd of August, 1798, upon condition 
of banishment, or such terms as his Majesty might think lit to impose — Except all 
persons guilty of murder; all persons who had been, in custody between the Istof 
January, 1795, and the passing of the said act, under any charge of treason, or suspicion 
of treason ; all persons who had held commissions, or been engaged in his Majesty's 
service, and had joined in the rebellion ; all persons concerned in, or consenting to, any 
design for procuring the invasion of the realm ; all members of treasonable committees 
called National, Executive, Provincial, or County Committees of United Irishmen; all 
persons who had acted as generals, adjutant-generals, colonels, lieutenant-colonels, ma- 
jors, or captains in the rebel forces ; all persons in any wise concerned in the rebellion, 
who should not deliver up their arms in such manner as appointed by the chief governor ; 
all persons attainted of high treason during the present session of parliament ; all per- 
sons convicted by court-martial since the 24th of May, 1798, of rebellious practices; 
and also thirty-two persons named therein, fugitives from justice, charged with treason. 
It would have saved words to have said at once, except ninc'tentks of the people. 


cunxBtances well known to one of us, and entirely believed by the rest, that 
its eiiteraal relations had been betrayed to the English Cabinet through the 
agency of a foreigner with whom we negociated. 

** This was even so little disguised, that, on the preceding 12th of March, 
the contents of a memoir, which had been prepared by one of the under- 
signed at Hamburg, and transmitted thence to Paris, were minutely 
detailed to him by Mr. Cooke. Nevertheless, those with whom we nego- 
ciated seemed extremely anxious for our communications. Their reasons 
for this anxiety may have been many, but two particularly suggested 
themselves to our minds : they obviously wished to give proof to the 
enemies of an Irish republic, and of Irish independence, of -the facts with 
which they were themselves well acquainted, while, at the same time, they 
concealed from the world their real sources of intelligence. Nor do 
we believe we are uncharitable in attributing to them the hope and wish of 
rendering unpopular and suspected men in whom the United Irishmen had 
been accustomed to place an almost unbounded confidence. The injurious 
consequences of government succeeding in both these objects were merely 
personal; and as they were no more, though they were revolting and 
hateful to the last degree, we did not hesitate to devote ourselves that we 
might make terms for our country. 

" What were these terms ? That it should be rescued from civil and 
military executions ; that a truce should be obtained for liberty, which she 
so much required. There was also another strongly-impelling motive for 
entering into this agreement. If government, on the one hand, was de- 
sirous of alarming its dependents by a display of the vigorous and well- 
concerted measures that were taken for subverting its authority, and shaking 
off the English yoke, so we, on, the other hand, were not less solicitous for 
the vindication of our cause in the eyes of the liberal, the enlightened, and 
patriotic. We perceived that, in making a fair and candid development of 
those measures, we should be enabled boldly to avow and justify the cause 
of the Irish Union, as being founded upon the purest principles of benevo- 
lence, and as aiming only at the liberation of Ireland." 

In the evening of the day on which the compact was finally concluded, 
Lord Castlereagh told-O'Connor, Emmet, and Macneven, that he expected 
them to draw up and present in writing a detailed account of the rise, 
progress, and proceedings of the United Irishmen, including their negocia- 
tions with foreign states ; and that such account would be considered by the 
government as a full accomplishment of their part of the conditions. This 
was the occasion of their very curious and valuable " Memoir of the Origin 
and Progress, of the Irish Union," which was handed in to the ministers on 
the 4th of August. This performance of the compact, though acknow- 
ledged to be " perfect," was, however, far from satisfactory. Two days 
afterwards, Mr. Cooke called on the prisoners at Kilmainham, and told 
them that " Lord Comwallis had read the Memoir; but, as it was a vindi- 
cation of the Union, and a condemnation of the ministers, the government, 
and the legislature of Ireland, he could not receive it, and therefore he 
wished they would alter it." They declared " they would not change 
one letter ; it was all true, and it was the truth they stood pledged to 

* See O'Connor's Letter to Lord Castlereagh. 


Ministerial ingenuity eventaally surmounted the difficulty^by suppressing 
the memoir (which was afterwards published by its authors), and extracting 
from the prisoners so much of its contents as might serve ministerial uses, 
by examining them before Secret Gonunittees of the two Houses. 

The prisoners having now honourably fulfilled their part of the agree- 
ment, as Mr. Cooke expressly and formally acknowledged on the ISth 
of August,* it was time for the government to make good its promise 
of '* utmost liberality and good faith." But the hberaUty and good faith 
were not forthcoming. Repeated and urgent applications from the seventy- 
three, for leave to emigrate according to the compact, were studiously 
evaded. Ministers claimed the right of detaining them until a general 
peace^ forgetting that the very words of the compact — " not to pass into 
an enemy's country'^ — ^implied their release during the war. The go* 
vernment press teemed with insolent and cruel misrepresentations of the 
evidence given by the leaders of the Union before the Secret Committees ; 
which misrepresentations the prisoners (though they had verbally stipulated 
for full liberty of publication) were not allowed to answer. On Uie first 
attempt of O'Connor, Emmet, and Macneven to repel these newspaper 
slanders by a public advertisement,! they were put into solitary confine- 
ment. Early in September, a Banishment and Pardon Act was introduced 
into parliament, by way of fulfilling the ministerial part of the agreement, 
with a lying and insulting preamble, stating that the prisoners had ac>- 
knowledged their crimes^ retracted their opinions f and implored pardon- 
An attempt of NeUson to set the public right on these points, by a letter 
to the London Courier (laid before Lord Castlereagh previously to its 
being dispatched), brought an angry visit from Mr. Cooke, the result of 
which is thus stated by Neilson : — 

" ' Then,' said Mr. Cooke, ' you are determined to publish ? ' I told 
him, * I was.* * I am to inform you, then, that I am desired by his Excel- 
lency the Lord Lieutenant to say that your doing so will be considered as 
a breach of the contract, and the executions will go on a^ formerly T 
' Why, sir, as to executions, I have my mind made up ; I would 
rather sufiTer a thousand deaths than permit such a false statement to 
be thus solemnly recorded.' ^ Do you know^ sw^ said he, in a menacing 
tone, ^ that we can execute you without much difficulty ?' ^ I do, sir; 
I know your will is law, and, to save you trouble, I would prefer you giving 
orders to Gregg (the gaoler), this instant to hang me out of the door, than 
acquiesce in such an abominable measure.' ^ Oh ! sir, I see what offends 

* Ibid. 

t This advertisement was as follows : — 

" Having read in the different newspapers publications pretending to be abstracts ofth^ 
Report of the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, and of our depositions before 
the committees of Lords and Commons ; we feel ourselves called upon to assure the public 
that they are gross, and, to us, astonishing misrepresentations, not only unsupported 
by, but in many instances directly contradictory to, the facts we really stated on these 
occasions. We further assure our friends, that in no instance did the name of any 
individual escape from us : on the contrary, we always refused answering such q^uestions 
as might tend to implicate any persons whateyer, conformably to the agreement entered 
into by the state prisoners with government. 

" Arthur O'Connor, 
" Thos. Addis Emmet. 
"WiLUAM James Macneven." 


you : yoii are anxious for the reputation of the prisoners. Now, your mind 
may be, and I suppose is, made up ; but are you sure that all your fellow- 
prisoners are equally determined ?' * I cannot say, nor is it material ; for 
they can by no means be implicated in this act of mine.' ' Indeed, they 
are ; and I assure you, if you publish a syllable on the subject, it will 
equally affect them all.' ' Then I beg you may permit my fellow-prisoners 
in this place to be present at the conclusion of tJiis interview?' ' No,' re- 
plied he (in terms of disrespect to them, which I was obliged to listen to, 
but shall not repeat). ' Then, sir, am I authorised to say that you come 
express from the Lord Lieutenant to tell me that my publication^ 
stating the falsehoods on which the Act is founded^ will be considered as 
a breach of the treaty, and the executions wUlgo on as formerly ?' * You 
are, sir, If you publish at all ; that is my message.' I told him that I would 
take no fmrther step until I consulted my fellow-prisoners. He then told 
me he hoped to get some of the offensire passages in the bill softened, if it 
had not yet passed the Lords, and left me with a promise of immediately 
waiting on the Chancellor for that purpose. The prisoners (whom I con- 
sulted as secretly as I had an opportunity of doing), feeling that it might 
occasion a renewal of all the miseries of the country, which were at that 
time suspended at least, did not authorise me to proceed any further, nor 
did I think myself warranted in publishing at such a risk. I heard no 
more of Mr. Cooke or the Chancellor, and the biQ passed with all its de- 

The object is plain: they meant to keep the prisoners as long as possible — 
use them as far as possible — and then turn them loose on the world with a 
" certificate of villany." 

The compact had now, in fact, become a dead letter. On the ' 25th of 
September j Arthur O* Connor wrote to Lord Comwallis, again demanding 
performance of the terms to which Castlereagh had pledged the good faith 
of the government. On the 21st of October, he received the Lord Lieu- 
tenant's answer, informing him and the other prisoners that they would be 
permitted to emigrate to America, on condition of giving security not to 
return to Europe — a permission, however, which was speedily nullified 
by an intimation from the American ambassador, Mr. Rufus King, that 
his government would enforce the alien act against such emigrants. As 
the utmost exertions of the British Cabinet were unavailing to overcome 
the scruples of the United States' minister, the captives had the whole 
world shut against them. 

At the end of six weeks more, a new interpretation was put on the 
compact. On the 5th of December, the prisoners received from the Castle a 
message, in Lord Castlereagh's handwriting, stating that all the prisoners, 
eascept Neilson, Russell, Emmet, Macneven, O'Connor, and ten others, 
were at liberty to retire to any neutral country on the continent. The ex- 
cepted fifteen " could not be liberated at present ;" his Excellency " would 
be glad to extend the indulgence to them as soon as he could do it con- 
sistent with the attention which he owed to the public safety." 

At length, after three months more of waiting and suspense, the govern- 
ment came to a decision : — 

" On the 18th of March," says Neilson, " in the evening, fourteen of us 
received notice to prepare to go on board ship the next morning at six 



& clock / No intimation of what further destination was intended— all we 
could tell our friends, if we had been given time to have seen them, was that 
we were to go on board ship in a few hours, but whether for Botany Bay, Si- 
beria, or to be scuttled and sunk, was alike unknown to us. On this occa- 
sion our astonishment was beyond description : some of us really thought 
it might have been a piece of fun practised upon us by the gaoler-— a kmd 
of cruelty not unfrequent in these dreary abodes of safe custody. I was at 
this period confined to my bed by an intermittent fever, and having often 
experienced the most unexampled roughness from Gregg (the gaoler), I 
really imagined he was making an experiment upon my life. I was not 
able to write, but I immediately dictated the following letter to Lord Corn- 
waUis : — 

" ' Mt Lord— I have received a message this moment from Mr. 
' Cooke, through our gaoler, stating that I am to be removed to a ship to- 
' morrow morning at six o'clock. I am astonished at this notice, so en- 
' tirely contradictory to the faith of government solemnly pledged ; for 
' though I wish to go abroad, yet I would desire to settle (as was agreed 

* upon) the place of exile, and the accommodations on board. It must 
' occur to your lordship that, at any rate, two or three days must be 
' necessary to prepare for an eternal adieu to my native country, my wife 
' and children. I thought the treatment I had received for the last seven 
' years from government might have satiated any revenge, without this 

* additional piece of severity, and this additional breach of a solemn 
' engagement. In the meantime, I request your lordship will have the 
' goodness to state whether this order is authorised or not. 

" ' I am, my lord, &c., 

" ' Samttel Neilson. 

« * New Prison, March IBM, 1799.* 

" This letter was sent to the Castle late that night, and the prisoners 
were sent on board ship the next morning !" 

The imknown place of their destination turned out to be Fobt Geobge, 
in Invemess-shire, where they arrived on the 14th of April, 1799. And there 
they remained trough that year, and the next, and the nextp— treated, as ap- 
pears from their frequent acknowledgments of the behaviour of the governor, 
Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart, with all the leniency and respect that could 
mitigate so abominable a breach of faith, but closely confined, completely 
secluded from all intercourse with the world but what passed und^ the 
eye of their military gaolers, and to all appearance utterly forgotten by the 
govemmwit of " utmost liberality and good faith." Neilson writes — '* As 
to us deport^s, I see no disposition to recoUect us ; n>e are jmt, like old 
debts, in the back of the book:' Not till the last day of May, 1802, did 
the government take notice of their existence. On the 30th of the June 
following, they sailed for Hamburg. 

The subsequent fortunes of this little band of exiles do not belong to 
our history. Most of those whom the preceding pages have made indi- 
vidually known to the reader eventually settled in America, and formed (in 
New York especially) a little community of ** United Irishmen" — ^neither 
of the agitating nor conspiring sort. They kept up a kindly intercourse 
among themselves ; the intermarriages of the children superadded domestic 


affinity to the " brotherhood of 'affection and identity of interests" which 
had combined the fathers in political union ; and by their virtues in private 
life, no less than by the consistency of their public principles, they vindi- 
cated their own and their country's good fame.* 



The Rebellion has come and gone-— yet we have heard nothing of Ge- 
neral Tone and the ArnUe dAngleterre. It seems to have been a fatality 
in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, that precisely where there was the most 
of industrious, calculating, and pains- taking preparation, action was most 
tardy and ineffectual. In the first week of the insurrection, just when 
foreign aid was most needed and would have been most useful, the flower 
of the ArnUe d^Angleterre was afloat in Toulon waters, under sailing or- 
ders for Egypt ; and only a disorganised remnant was left. In the very 
heat and height of the war — ^when the presence, at the right place aad 
time, of a few thousand, or a few hundred, weU- equipped and well-officered 
Boldiers of the Republic might have turned the trembling balance-^the 
French Directory were voting the adjournment of the whole business to a 
more convenient season. On the 20th of June, the day before the decisive 
battle of Vinegar Hill, Tone went to visit General Kilmaine, the Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the remnant of the army of England. The general told 
iiim '* he was much afraid the government would do nothing ; " and read a 
letter he had that morning received from the Minister of Marine, stating 
that '^ in consequence of the great superiority of the naval force of the 
enemy, and difficulty of escaping from any of the ports during the fine 
season, the Directory were determined to adjourn the measure until a more 
favourable occasion.'' Poor Tone *^ lost his temper at this, and told him 
that if the affair was adjourned, it was lost : the present crisis must be 
seized, or it would be too late." Kilmaine answered, '^ he saw all that; but 

* Dr. Madden (Second Series, vol. ii., p. 191 «< seq.) giyes a goodly catalogue of 
United Irishmen, and sons of United Irishmen, who have risen to stations of trust and 
honour in the American Republic. It may interest the reader to learn that Emmet had 
a long and successful career at the bar, and in 1812 receiyed the appointment of Attor- 
ney-General of the state of New York. He died in 1827, and a monument is erected 
to his memory in Broadway. Macneven obtained high repute as a practising physician 
and professor in the medical schools of New York, where he resided till his death, in 
July, 1841. Neilson was less fortunate than his friends and compatriots. A six-years' 
imprisonment (the interval of a few weeks excepted) had completely broken his con- 
stitution; he died at Poughkeepsy, a small town on the river Hudson, in August, 1803. 
His letters to his family, from Fort George, give a very pleasing impression of his affec- 
tionateness, good sense, good principles, and cheerful religious wisdom. Arthur O'Con- 
nor is, we believe, still living, in France. 


Tvhat could he do ?*'* He could, in truth, do nothing ; and the Direc- 
tory could do nothing: the hest of their men and ships were gone to 
Egypt, the arsenals were empty, the treasury was empty. The twelfth 
hour had already struck, when, stimulated by each successive arrival of 
news from Ireland of battles, massacres, and military executions, the Di- 
rectory at last determined to prepare for making a beginning. By the end 
of June the rebellion was over — in the beginning of July, Tone was called 
to Paris to consult with the ministers of the War and Navy departments 
on the organisation of a new expedition.**! 

The plan of this new expedion was to dispatch from several ports such 
small armaments as could be got ready on short notice, in the hope of feed- 
ing the expiring rebellion and distracting the attention of the enemy, until 
an opportunity should arise for landing the main body under GeneraJ 
Kilmaine. General Hxtmbebt, with about a thousand men, was stationed 
for this purpose at Rochelle, and General Habdy, with three thousand, at 
Brest: the army of reserve, under Ealmaine, numbered nine thousand. 
The requisite preparations, however, in the exhausted state of the French 
finances, went on slowly and with difficulty. The rate at which the arma- 
ment proceeded in the ports of France bore no proportion to that at which 
the Irish government was disarming and crushing the insurgents. Even 
the daily arrival of crowds of indignant refugees, who, *' when they saw 
the slowness of the French preparations, exclaimed that they wanted no- 
thing but arms ; and that if the government would only land them again 
on the coast, the people themselves, without any aid, would suffice to re- 
conquer their liberty," could not effectually hasten the languid movements of 
the pauperised Directory. 

While matters were in this state. General Humbert — a daring, dashing, 
forlorn-hope kind of soldier, who had received his military education under 
Hoche in the war of La Vendee, and accompanied his master in the Ban- 
try-Bay expedition of 1 796 — ^a man excellently fitted to carry through a 
bold coup de main^ though not gifted with the skill and science requisite 
for an extended and prolonged plan of operations — ^impatient of the inter- 
minable delays of his government, and fired by the reports of the Irish re- 
fugees, determined to begin at once on his own responsibility, leaving the 
Directory to second or desert him as they thought proper. Towards the 
middle of August, he called together some of the magistrates and merchants 
of Rochelle — ^forced them to advance him a small sum of money and other 
necessaries, on military requisition — and, with a thousand men (some ac- 
counts say eleven hundred;, a thousand spare muskets, a few pieces of light 
artillery, and a 53w frigates and transports, hurried out to sea. He was 
accompanied by three Irishmen — Matthew Tone (a brother of Theobald 
Wolfe Tone), Bartholomew Teeling, and one Sullivan. On the 22nd of 
August, Humbert anchored in the Bay of KillaiiA, on the northern coast 
of Connaught, and instantly landed a party of grenadiers with orders to 
storm the town. In two hours the French general was quietly established 
In head-quarters at the Episcopal Palace. % 

* " Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone," vol. ii., p. 324. 

t Ibid, p. 338. 

X The Bishop of Killala at this time was Dr. Stock, an amiable and liberal-minded 
prelate. His " Narrative of what passed at Killala, in the county of Mayo, and the parts 
adjacent, during the French Invasion in the summer of 1798,'* is one of the most 


It was a bold enterprise, this of conquering Ireland from the British 
Cro-wn with only a thousand men-— bold to the verge of madness ; yet its 
beginnings were wonderfully propitious, and afford matter for curious spe- 

curious and entertaining pieces of history which the events of the year produced. It 
is a pleasant, gossiping — it must also be confessed, a somewhat twaddling — account of 
the scenes and events of the invasion, as they presented themselves to the perceptions 
of a good-hearted, comfortable Protestant bishop. 

The bishop bears the highest testimony, again and again (Barrington says, at the 
expense of his own prospects of translation), to the good conduct and moderation of 
the French general and troops. They seem to have behaved admirably, from first to last. 
It -was some little time before our right reverend chronicler could quite divest himself of 
the apprehension that these uninvited occupants of his episcopal mansion were a sort 
of ogres or cannibals ; but the evidences of civilised humanity were too unmistakable 
to be permanently resisted, and, long before the free-quarters of the invaders were at an 
end they made a very pleasant, though costly, family party. The Bishop feelingly la- 
ments that his visitors had " no religion ;'* but it was something in their favour, that 
they ''most religiously observed" their promise to treat him and his with "respectful 
attention, and to take nothing for the troops but what was absolutely necessary for 
their support" The republican Atheists seem to have had considerably more of the 
religion which consists in keeping promises than their orthodox enemies. The very 
first prisoner they took, a yeomanry captain of the name of Kirkwood, was allowed to 
go and visit his sick wife, and broke his parole. If they had no religion themselves, 
they respected the religion of others ; they burned no chapels, and took care to keep 
the precincts of the castle quiet on Sunday mornings. The Bishop says that they main- 
tained « excellent discipline constantly ;" carried away " not a single particular of pri- 
vate property;" observed ''scrupulous delicacy" towards the women of his household; 
and were always ready " to assist in little menial offices in and about the house where- 
ever they were wanted." His only very serious grievance was a most inordinate con- 
sumption of coals : — " of his kitchen grate so incessant use was made, from early morn- 
ing even to midnight, that the chimney was on fire more than once, and in the middle 
of summer above thirty ton of coals lasted only one month." It is satisfactory to learn 
that, in the midst of all the good man's troubles, " his health and appetite seemed to be 
improved, nor did he ever in his life sleep better." On the whole, we may pronounce 
the Bishop fortunate in having French enemies at free-quarters in his castle, rather than 
British Protestant friends. 

Equally generous was the behaviour of the French troops towards the Protestant in- 
habitants of the town. Their position necessitated a system of military requisition, but 
they neither practised nor tolerated indiscriminate plunder. The great difficulty was 
with their Irish recruits, whose propensity to pillage and bloodshed they had much 
trouble in restraining : still, the restraint was exercised, and with effect. Charost, the 
officer whom Humbert left in Killala v^th a garrison of two hundred men, while he pro- 
secuted his enterprise in the interior, distributed aims and ammunition freely to all who 
desired them for self-defence, "without distinction of religion or party," and " under 
no other condition than a promise of restoring them when he should call for them.'* 
To the end he continued to warn his recruits, that " if ever he caught them preparing 
to spoil and murder Protestants, he and his officers would side with the Protestants 
against them to the very last extremity." With the aid of the inhabitants, Charost in- 
stituted a sort of local elective government, which was very efficient, for the protection 
of life and property. In fact, towards the close of this most moderate and merciful in- 
vasion, when the passions of ^e peasantry were inflamed by the expected arrival of the 
victorious royal troops, the position of the French officers in the castle and town was 
virtually that of an armed police and magistracy, entrusted with the protection of Pro- 
testant life and property. The Bishop says, *• As long as the two hundred French 
soldiers were suffered to remain for the defence of Killala, the Protestant inhabitants 
felt themselves perfectly secure." At length they "parted, not without tears, from their 
friends and protectors." Things went not so well with the people of Killala when the 
king's troops came back to protect them. 

It is pleasant to be able to say that the exemplary conduct of this little band of in- 
vaders was appreciated by the British government. Tlie three French officers who com- 
manded the garrison were, on the Bishop's report of their behaviour, liberated and sent 
home without exchange. The Directory, however, " could not avail themselves of so polite 


dilation. These thousand French soldiers, of the veiy best France had — 
intelligent, temperate, patient of fatigue, daringly brave, perfectly equipped, 
inured to the most exact and rigid discipline, half of them fresh from ser- 
vice with Napoleon and the army of Italy — ^if they could only have been 
got over there six weeks before, or if, when there, they had been efficiently 
seconded by reinforcements from home, it seems not violently improbable 
that our History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 might have had a different 

On the morning of the 23rd, Humbert marched with a party of his 
troops to Ballina, a small town a few miles southward. The garrison fled, 
after a feeble attempt at resistance. Humbert left a small party in pos- 
session of the place, and returned to Killala. These first successes told 
powerfully on the temper of the peasantry. They flocked in by hundreds 
to join the invaders and receive arms and uniforms ; about a thousand were 
completely equipped and clothed. Thus reinforced, Humbert prepared to 
act on a larger scale. On the 26th, leaving two hundred men and some 
officers to defend Killala, he marched with the main body of his army 
(eight hundred Frenchmen, and above a thousand raw native recruits) to 
attack Castlebab, the county town ; whose garrison, at all times consi- 
derable, was now augmented to a force of six thousand men, well pro- 
vided with artillery, under the command of General Lake. A fatiguing 
march of fifteen hours, through rough and difficult mountain passes, where 
their cannon (two light pieces) had to be dragged along by the hands of 
the peasantry, brought the invaders, early on the morning of the 27th, 
within view of the British troops, strongly posted between them and the 

In the engagement of the 27th of August, the army '* formidable to 
Bvery one but the enemy " fully justified its well-established reputation. 
It was easy work whipping peasants and cutting down stragglers*— but 
there was no standing the charge of those terrible grenadiers who had been 
at Lodi. In half an hour the whole of the British troops were routed. 
The retreat was conducted with more regard to self-preservation than to 
military discipline.' It was " like that of a mob," says Barrington ; heavy 

an offer, because their officers at Killala had only done their duty, and no more than 
what any Frenchman would have done in the same situation.'* 

The Bishop's description of KiUala in the hands of French, like Hay's account of 
Wexford under the rebel goyernment, is of great interest, as affording a kind of prox- 
imate indication of the results which would have followed the success of the United 
Irishmen's plans. So far as the experiment was allowed to proceed, there does not ap- 
pear reason to beUeye that the condition of the Irish people, or the morality of their 
gorernment, would have been materially deteriorated by a revolution. Notwithstanding 
all the disorders and alarms incident to popular commotion and foreign invasion, the 
towns of Killala and Wexford had no ground for rejoicing in the victory of the British 
troops and the restored ascendency of the law and constitution. 

Oofi result of accepting French aid developed itself at Killala, which would probably, 
In the event of a successful invasion on a large scale, have occasioned serious mischief, 
and greatly embarrassed the popular leaders. The Irish peasantry and the French 
soldiers could not at all understand one another on the subject of religion. The Bishop 
informs us that *'it astonished the French officers to hear the recruits, when they offered 
their services, declare that * they were come to take arms for France and the Blessed Ftr- 
gin.' " The Frenchmen said ** they had just driven Mr. Pope out of Italy, and did not 
expect to find him again so suddenly in Ireland." Had a revolution been effected by 
the help of these very anti-Catholic allies, this antagonism would have placed formi- 
dable difficulties in the way of a cordial and permanent, amity between the two nations. 

IfilSH SEBELLIOir. 231 

cavalry, light cavalry, infantry, and Jocelyn FoxrHunters, all jumbled 
together. They fled — those who had horses to carry them — " through 
thick, and thin," and never halted till they reached the town of Tuam, nearly 
forty English miles from the scene of action. They then ran on to Athlone, 
on the east of the Shannon, thirty miles further. This disgraceful business 
'was called the " Races of Castlebar." 

The French, meanwhile, entered the town, took quiet possession, and 
prepared to enjoy themselves. They did not bum and massacre : they 
** immediately set about putting their persons in the best order, and the 
officers advertised a ball and supper that night for the ladies of the town. 
Xhis, it is said, was well attended. Decorum in all points was strictly pre- 
served ; they paid ready money for everything, and hanged some rebels 
-who attempted to plunder." * 

The victory of Castlebar placed in Humbert's hands a large supply of 
military stores, arms, ammunition, and baggage, the whole of General 
Lake's artillery, together with a vast number of prisoners, many of whom 
joined the invaders, j He pursued his successes ; and in less than a week 
from the day of his landing, was undisputed master (in addition to his previous 
acquisitions) of the towns of Newport, Westport, Foxford, and Ballinrobe. 
The county of Mayo was completely revolutionised, and a civil and military 
organisation was in progress for the entire province of Connaught. These 
triumphs were, however, though startling and dazzling enough, fallacious 
and unsubstantial at bottom. Hmnbert had, in truth (as his Irish conurades 
strongly but ineffectually urged), no business at all in Connaught — ^the 
weakest, poorest, least excitable province of Ireland — ^but should have 
pushed at once into Ulster or Leinster, where the embers of the recent re- 
bellion were still smouldering. But the French general was obstinate ; 
and he only discovered his error when it was too late to retrieve it. 

The government was now thoroughly alarmed. Another discomfiture 
like that of Castlebar, or a new arrival of troops from France^ might raise 
half Ireland in a second rebellion worse than the first. Already there 
were rumours of large masses of insurgents getting ready in Longford and 
Westmeath, waiting only for an opportunity of joining the French in a 
march on Dublin. Panic soon gave place to vigour. On the 30th of 
August, Lord Cornwallis took the field in person with a powerful force, 
which was hourly augmented by accessions from the royal troops occupying 
stations near his line of march. All the disposable troops in the kingdom 
were put in motion, with orders to concentrate themselves on Humbert's 
position, and on no account to risk an engagement without an absolute cer- 
tainty of success. The situation of the French became critical. Humbert 
left Castlebar on the 4th of September, to avoid being surrounded by the 
British armies advancing on that place from different points, and endea- 
voured to force his way across the Shannon, through Leitrim, into Long- 
ford or the mountains of Ulster. We need not detail the marchings and 
counter-marchings of the following days, which were spent in an almost 
unintermitted running fight between the little band of invaders and the 

* Barrington'fl << Historic Memoirs," vol. ii., |u 280. 

t Barrington says — " A considerable part of the Louth and Kilkenny regiments, not 
finding it convenient to retreat, thought the next best thing they could do would be to 
join the victors, which they immediately did^ and in one hour were completely equipped 
as French riflemen." 


cavalry of the pursuing armies. The French general displayed abundance 
of military talent : but the case was, in the nat\ire of it, hopeless. On the 
8th of September, he was surrounded at BALLiNAiincs:, in Longford, by 
Lord Cornwallis and thirty thousand men. After half an hour's fighting for 
the honour of the Republic, Humbert took counsel of necessity, and sur- 
rendered. Hid force at this time consisted of eight hundred and forty French- 
men (oflScers included), and about fifteen hundred rebels. The former were of 
course admitted to the usual terms of prisoners of war : the latter— equally 
" of coiuse" — were butchered without mercy. Of the Irishmen who had 
originally accompanied the expedition, Sullivan passed unnoticed as a 
French officer ; Matthew Tone and Bartholomew Teeling were brought 
in irons to Dublin, tried by court-martial as traitors, and executed. The 
Lord Lieutenant returned in triumph to the capital, leaving an army, 
under the command of General Trench, to reconquer the rebel towns, and 
execute the usual military atrocities on the inhabitants.* 

The news of Humbert's departure threw the French Directory into the 
utmost perplexity. The business was none of theirs — ^yet they could not, 
either in honour or policy, desert their gallant and enterprising soldier. 
They immediately determined to hurry on their preparations with all pos- 
sible rapidity, and dispatch General Hardy with reinforcements. The 
report of the successes at Killala and Castlebar, which quickly reached 
them, accelerated their movements. But such was the state, at this period, 
of the French navy and arsenals, that it was not till the 20th of September 
that a small armament— consisting of one ship of the line (the Hoche), and 
eight frigates, under Commodore Bompart, with three thousand soldiers 
under Hardy— could be got ready for sea. Of the surrender at Ballinamuck 
no tidings had yet reached France. The expedition was accompanied by 
Adjutant-General Theobald Wolfe Tone, in the Admiral's ship, and 
three other Irishmen.f 

The voyage was long and tedious. To elude the British cruisers, Bom- 
part took a large sweep to the westward, and then to the north-east, with 
the view of bearing down on the northern coast of Ireland, where a French 
landing would be least expected. He had to contend with adverse winds, 
which retarded his course, and scattered his flotilla. On the 10th of 
October, he arrived off the entrance of Lough Swilly, in the extreme 
north of Ulster, with his nine sail reduced to four — the Hoche, the Loire, 
the Resolue, and the Biche. 

At break of day on the 11th, while the French commodore was pressing 
forward to enter Uie Lough and land his troops, he perceived the squadron 
of Sir John Borlase Warren — six sail of the line, two frigates, and a sixty- 
gun razee — ^bearing down upon him. Passing the French frigates without 

* Killala alone — the French garrison making it a point of honour not to desert their 
allies — offered a formidable resistance. It was taken, after a sanguinary conflict, on the 
23rd of September. A fearful slaughter of the peasantry was the first fruit of victory; 
and after that came a week of " courts-martial in the morning, and the most crowded 
dinners at the castle in the evening." As usual, the blaze of peasants' cabins was the 
signal of the approach of the king's troops. — See the Bishop's " Narrative." 

t Between twenty and thirty Irish xefugees had previously embarked in a small fast- 
sailing vessel, with James Napper Tandy ibr their leader. On the 16th of September, 
they made the island of Raghlin, on the north-west coast of Ireland, but, hearing of 
Humbert's disaster, contented themselves with spreading some proclamations, aad 
escape^ to Norway. 


Imk firing a shot, the British commander singled out the Hoche. Escape was 

^- impossible, and Bompart did not attempt it. He instantly signalled his 

M frigates to retreat through shallow water ; and prepared, single-handed, to 

te lionour the flag of the Republic by a desperate defence. '* At that mo- 

ffl^s ment," says Tone's Son, " a boat came from the Biche for his last orders. 

Fret Tliat ship had the best chaiice to get off. The French officers all suppli- 

^ cated my father to embark on board of her. ' Our contest is hopeless,* 

^ they observed; * we shall be prisoners of war, but what will become of you?' 

Iwfc * Shall it be said,' replied he, ' that I fled, whilst the French were fighting the 

1 25 hattles of my country ?' He refused their offers, and determined to stand 

"m and fall with the ship. The Biche accomplished her escape."* 

Tk The Hoche was soon surrounded by four British ships of the line and 

iff one frigate: and now began "one of the most obstinate and desperate 

,« engagements which have ever been fought on the ocean. During six hours 

she sustained the fire of a whole fleet, till her masts and rigging were swept ^ 

)^ a^vay ; her scuppers flowed with blood, her wounded filled Ihe cock-pit, her ' 

acC shattered ribs yawned at each new stroke, and let in five feet of water in 

liii, the hold ; her rudder was carried off, and she fioated a dismantled wreck on 

)»■ the waters ; her sails and cordage hung in shreds, nor could she reply 

[fe ^with a single gun from her dismounted batteries to the unabating cannonade 

d of the enemy. At length she struck. The Resolue and the Loire were 

i soon reached by the English fleet. The former was in a sinking condition ; 

s she made, however, an honourable defence. The Loire sustained three 

i attacks, drove off the English frigates, and had almost effected her escape ; 

J at length, engaged by the Anson razee of sixty guns, she struck, after an 

i . action of three hours, entirely dismasted."! Of Bompart's entire squadron, 

I only three vessels eventually regained the French coast. 

" During the action," continues Tone's biographer, " my father com- 
manded one of the batteries, and, according to the report of the officers 
who returned to France, fought with the utmost desperation, and as if he 
was courting death. When the ship struck, confounded with the other 
officers, he was not recognised for some time; for he had completely 
acquired the language and appearance of a Frenchman. The two fleets 
were dispersed in every direction ; nor was it till some days later that the 
Hoche was brought into Lough Swilly, and the prisoners landed and 
marched to Letterkenny. Yet rumours of his being on board must have 
been circulated, for the fact was public at Paris ; but it was thought he 
had been killed in the action, and I am willing to believe that the British 
officers, respecting the valour of a fallen enemy, were not earnest in inves- 
tigating the point. It was at length a gentleman well known in County 
Deny as a leader of the Orange party, and one of the chief magistrates in 
that neighbourhood. Sir George Hill, who had been his fellow-student in 

I Trinity College, and knew his person, who undertook the task of dis- 

covering him. It is known that, in Spain, grandees and noblemen of the 

' flrst rank pride themselves in the functions of familiars, spies, and informers 

of the Holy Inquisition ; it remained for Ireland to offer a similar example. 
The French officers were invited to breakfast with the Earl of Cavan, who 
commanded in that district. My father sat undistinguished amongst them 
when Sir George Hill entered the room, followed by police officers 

* " Memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone," vol. ii., p, 346. 
t Ibid, p. 347. 


Looking narrowly at the company, he singled out the object of his search, 
and stepping up to him, said, ' Mr. Tone, I am very happy to see you.* 
Instantly rising with the utmost composiu*e, and disdaining all useless 
attempts at concealment, my father replied, ' Sir George, I am happy to 
see you ; how are Lady Hill and your family ?' Beckoned into the next 
room by the police officers, an unexpected indignity awaited him. It was 
filled with military ; and one General Lavau, who commanded them, 
ordered him to be ironed, declaring that, as on leaving Ireland to enter the 
French service, he had not renounced his oath of allegiance, he remained 
a subject of Britain, and should be punished as a traitor. Seized with a 
momentary burst of indignation at such unworthy treatment and cow- 
ardly cruelty to a prisoner of war, he flung off his uniform, and cried, 
* These fetters shall never degrade the revered insignia of the free nation 
which I have served.' Resuming then his usual calm, he offered his 
limbs to the irons; and when they were fixed, he exclaimed, 'For the 
cause which I have embraced, I feel prouder to wear these chains than 
if I were decorated with the star-and-garter of England.*" He was 
hurried off to Dublin, and thrown into the barrack prison. 

The Irish government had now in its hands the most illustrious and for- 
midable of all its enemies : the founder of the first Society of United Irish- 
men, the secretary to the Catholic Convention, the daring agitator, the 
wily conspirator, the successful negociator — ^the author of &e Bantry-Bay 
expedition and the Texel armament — ^the very prince of traitors — the 
" Alpha and Omega of the Irish Union." Mercy for him was of course 
not to be thought of, even under the rigime of Lord Comwallis and Am- 
nesty Acts, Nor was it desired : Tone's only wish was to die with honour 
like a soldier. 

On Saturday, the 10th of November, the prisoner was brought up for 
trial in Dublin barracks, before General Loftus and a Court-Martial. He 
appeared, collected and self-possessed, in the uniform of a chef de bri- 
gade. The charge against him was read by the Judge- Advocate, implicat- 
ing him as " a natural-bom subject of our lord the king, having traitor- 
ously entered into the service of the French republic at open war with his 
Majesty, and being taken in the fact, bearing arms against his king and 
country," &c. ; and he was called upon to plead, Guilty or Not Guilty, 

Tone answered, " It was not his wish to avail himself of any subterfuge, 
or to give the Court any unnecessary trouble ; he was ready to admit the 
whole of the charge exhibited against him, and consequently the appella- 
tion by which he was technically described." He only requested leave to 
read to the Court an address which he had prepared for the occasion, ex- 
planatory of the grounds and motives of his conduct. 

The Court consented to hear him, provided he uttered nothing irrelevant 
to the cause or imfitting for them to listen to. The prisoner then rose, 
and read as follows : — 

" Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Court — It is not my intention to 
give this Court any trouble respecting the purport of what has been al- 
leged against me : my admission of the charge prevents a prolongation of 
those forms which could not be more irksome to you than they would be 
to me. What I have done has been purely from principle, and the fullest 
conviction of its rectitude. I wish not for mercy — I hope I am not an 
object of pity. I anticipate the consequence of my caption, and am pre- 


paxed. for the event. The favourite object of my fife has been the inde- 
pendence of my country, and to that object I have made every sacrifice. 

** Placed in honourable poverty, the love of liberty was implanted by 
nature, and confirmed by education, in my heart. No seduction, no terror 
could banish it from thence ; and seduction and terror have not been spared 
against me. To impart the inestimable blessings of liberty to the land of 
my "birth, I have braved difficulties, bondage, and death. 

** After an honourable combat, in which I strove to emulate the bravery 
of my gallant comrades, I was forced to submit, and was dragged in irons 
tlirough the country, not so much to my disgrace as that of the person by 
"wliom such ungenerous and unmanly orders were issued. 

** Whatever I have written and said on the fate of Ireland I here re- 

** The connection of England I have ever considered as the bane of 
Ireland, and have done every thing in my power to break it, and to raise 
three millions of my coimtrymen to the rank of citizens."* 

The President here interrupted the prisoner with — " Mr. Tone, it is 
impossible we can listen to this." And a member of the court remarked 
tbat the address seemed intended to make " injurious impressions " on the 
audience. Tone replied, that what followed would be found less exception- 
able, and received permission to proceed. He continued — 

" Having considered the resources of the country, and being convinced 
they were too weak to effect her independence without assistance, I 
sought that assistance in France : and without any intrigue, but asking in 
the open honesty of my principles, and that love of freedom which has ever 
distinguished me. I have been adopted by the French Kepublic; and, in the 
active discharge of my duty of a soldier, ' acquired — ^what is to me inva- 
luable, and what I will never relinquish but with my existence — ^the friend- 
ship of some of the best characters in France, and the attachment and 
esteem of my brave companions in arms. 

** It is not the sentence of any court that can weaken the force or alter 
the nature of those principles on which I have acted, and the truth of which 
will outlive those ephemeral prejudices that may rule for the day. To her 
I leave the vindication of my fame. 

*' It is now more than four years since persecution drove me from this 
country, and I need hardly say that, personally, I cannot be involved in any 
thing that has happened during my absence. In my efforts to accomplish 
the freedom of my country, I never have had recourse to any other than 
open and manly war. There have been atrocities committed on both sides, 
which I lament ; and if the generous spirit which I had assisted to raise 
in the breasts of Irishmen has degenerated into a system of assassination, 
I believe all who had any knowledge of me from my infancy will be ready 
to admit that no man in existence could more heartily regret that the 
tyranny of any circumstances or policy should so pervert the natural dis- 
positions of my countrymen. 

'^ i have litUe more to say. Success is all in this life ; and, unfavoured 
of her, virtue becomes vicious in the ephemeral estimation of those who 
attach every merit to prosperity. In the glorious race of patriotism, I 
have pursued the path chalked out by Wa^ington in America, and Kos- 

* See Howell's «* State Trials," vol.xxvii. 


ciusko in Poland. Like the latter, I have failed to emancipate my 
country ; and, unlike both, I have forfeited my life. I have dc»ie my duty, 
and I have no doubt the Court will do theirs. I have only to add, that a 
man who has thought and acted as I have done, should be armed against 
the fear of death." 

Here the prisoner was asked if there was anything else which he wished 
to address to the Court. He replied that, if he was not to be brought up 
again before the decision of the Court, he would wish to say a few words 
more ; which being allowed, he proceeded as follows : — 

" I conceive that I stand here in the same light with our ermgHs : and, 
if the indulgence be in the power of the Court, I would only request what 
French magnanimity allowed to Charette and to the Count de Sombreuil— 
the death of a soldier, and to be shot by a file of grenadiers. This is the 
only favour I have to ask ; and I trust that men susceptible of the nice 
feelings of a soldier's honour will not refuse the request. It is not from 
any personal feeling that I make this request, but from a respect to the 
uniform which I wear, and to the brave army in which I have fought. 
From papers which I yesterday delivered into the hands of the brigade- 
major, it will be seen that I am as regularly breveted an officer in the 
French service as any here is in the British army, and it will be seen that 
I have not my commission as a protection." 

The papers were produced and read. Tone again expressed his desire 
to be indulged with a military death ; and " as he had no doubt of the de- 
cision of the Court, he hoped that the confirmation of it by the Lord Lieu- 
tenant might be had as soon as possible, and execution of the sentence im- 
mediately follow — ^within an hour, if were practicable." The Court pro- 
mised that the case should be considered and determined on without 

During that day and the next (Sunday), Tone evinced much anxiety to 
leam the Lord Lieutenant's decision as to the mode of his execution — the 
only matter which disturbed the habitual serenity of his mind. On the 
Sunday evening, he was informed that his conviction and sentence had 
been confirmed by Lord Comwallis, but that his prayer for a soldier's 
death could not be complied with — ^he must sufier the same fale as 
" other traitors." The time fixed for his execution was the next morning — 
the place the front of the New Prison. 

While the prisoner was silently nerving himself to the accomplishment 
of a purpose which he had long meditated, his friends were making one 
last effort to save him. The sentence under which he was condemned was 
clearly illegal. The courts of common law were then sitting, and courts- 
martial had consequently no jurisdiction over a man who had never taken 
a military oath to the British crown. Of his acquittal before any tribu- 
nal, there was, indeed, not the shadow of a hope. But it did not seem 
absolutely impossible, if execution could be stayed for the present, to effect 
some arrangement with the government, under which his life might be ul- 
timately spared. Tone had few personal enemies, and many warm friends, 
even among those most opposed to him in politics. The French govern- 
ment, too, could not, in honour, but interfere on his behalf; and the case 
might, from a merely legal, become a political one. Accordingly, it was 


determined by Curran to bring the matter before the Court of King's 
Bench, then presided over by the merciful and upright Lord Kilwarden. 

Immediately on the opening of the Court, on the morning of the fatal 
day (Monday, the 12th of November), Curran appeared at the bar, lead- 
ing* in the aged father of Tone, who made affidavit that his son had been 
"brought before a bench of military officers calling themselves a court- 
martial, and by them illegally sentenced to death. " I do not pretend to 
say," observed the advocate, '* that Mr. Tone is not guilty of the charges 
of which he is Accused — I presume the officers were honourable men — 
"but it is stated in the affidavit, as a solemn fact, that Mr. Tone had no 
commission under his Majesty, and therefore no court-martial could have 
cognisance of any crime imputed to him while the Court of King's Bench 
sat in the capacity of the great criminal court of the land. In times when 
ivar was raging, when man was opposed to man in the field, courts-martial 
might be endured ; but every law authority is with me, while I stand upon 
this sacred and immutable principle of the constitution — that martial law 
and dml law are incompatible, and that the former must cease with the 
existence of the latter. This is not the time for arguing this momentous 
question. My client must appear in this court. He is cast for death this 
day. He may be ordered for execution while I address you. I call on the 
Court to support the law. I move for a habeas corptis, to be directed to 
the provost-marshal of the barracks of Dublin and Major Sandys, to bring 
up the body of Mr. Tone." 

Lord Chief Jtistice : " Have a writ instantly prepared." 
Mr, Curran : " My client may die while this writ is preparing." 
Lord Chief Jtistice : " Mr. SherijBT, proceed to the barracks, and ac- 
quaint the provost-marshal that a writ is preparing to suspend Mr. Tone's 
execution ; and see that he be not executed." 

The Court awaited, in a state of the utmost agitation, the return of the 
sheriff. He shortly appeared, and said — *' My lord, I have been at the 
barracks, in pursuance of your order. The provost-marshal says he must 
obey Major Sandys — Major Sandys says he must obey Lord Comwallis." 

At the same time Curran announced to the Court that^ Mr. Tone, the 
father, was just returned, after serving the habeas corpus^ and that Gene- 
ral Craig would not obey it. The Chief Justice exclaimed—" Mr. Sheriff, 
take the body of Tone into your custody ; take the provost-marshal and 
Major Sandys into custody, and show the order of this Court to General 

The general impression now was that the prisoner would be led out to 
execution by the military authorities, in defiance of the Court. 

At length, after an interval of intense anxiety and agitation, the sheriff 
returned. He had been refused admittance within the barracks, but was 
informed that " Mr. Tone, having cut his throat the night before, was 
not in a condition to be removed." 

A French emigrant surgeon, whom General Ciaig had sent back with 
the sheriff, was then sworn. He said — " I was sent to attend Mr. Tone 
this morning at four o'clock. His windpipe was divided. I took instant mea- 
sures to secure his life, by closing the wound. There is no knowing for four 
days whether it will be mortal. His head is now kept in one position. 
A sentinel is over him to prevent his speaking. His removal would kill 

238 HI8T0RT OF TR£ 

The Chief Justice said — ^*^ Let a rule be made for suspending the 
execution of Theobald Wolfe Tone, and let it be served on the proper 

The prisoner lingered for several days. ** Stretched on his bloody pallet 
in a dungeon, the first apostle of Irish Union, and most illustrious martyr 
of Irish independence, counted each lingermg hour during the last seven days 
and nights of his slow and silent agony. No one was idlowed to approach 
him. Far from his adored family, and from all those friends whom he 
loved so dearly, the only forms which flitted before his e^^es were those of 
the grim gaoler and rough attendants of the prison ; the only sound which 
fell on his dying ear, the heavy tread of the sentry. He retained, however, 
the calmness of his soul and the possession of his faculties to the last ; and 
the consciousness of dying for his country, and in the cause of justice and 
liberty, illumined like a bright halo his latest mcMnents, and kept up his 
fortitude to the end." He died on the morning of the 19th of No- 

* The suspicion has been suggested that this alleged suicide was, in reality, a murder 
committed by the gaol authorities, irritated at the rumoured attempt to withdbraw their 
victim from the jurisdiction of the military tribunal. And certainly the character of the 
men, the seclusion in which the prisoner was kept (no medical attendant even was 
allowed to see him, except the emigrant French surgeon), the omission of post-mortem 
inquiry by coroner's inquest, the resistance to the Lord Chief Justice's warrant, and the 
evident desire to conceal what had happened — these, taken together, would justify almost 
any suspicion. Still, the motiVe assigned for the crime seems inadequate ; and Major 
Sandys aod his satellites would hardly have performed a murder so clumsily as to allow 
their victim to survive during a whole week. The concealment of the fact on the 
sheriff's first visit, and the resistance to the authority of the Chief Justice, may be more 
probably explained, on the supposition that they were determined to insult the dying 
man by dragging him out to execution, dying as he was, and subjecting him to the 
ignominy from which he had hoped to escape. • 

The following passage, from the "Memoirs" of Tone, shows that his last act was the ful- 
filment of a longscherished purpose, and at the same time affords a curious explanation of 
an en or which had prevailed before the publication of that work : — 

" In Ciirran's Life, by his Son, I find an anecdote mentioned which must have been 
derived from the authority of this gentleman" (he is speaking of one of the Irishmen 
who accompanied Hardy's expedition). " It is stated that, on ^e night previous to the 
sailing of the expedition, a question arose amongst the United Irishmen engaged in it, 
whether, in caae of their falling into the enemy's hands, they should suffer themselves 
to be put to death according to the sentence of the law, or anticipate their fate by 
their own hands ? That Mr. Tone maintained, with his usual eloquence and ani- 
mation, that in no point of view in which he had ever considered suicide, could he 
.hold it to be justifiable : that one of the company suggested that, from political 
considerations, it would be better not to relieve by any act of self-murder the Irish 
government from the discredit in which numerous executions 1«rould involve it; an 
idea which Mr. Tone highly approved. This anecdote is substantially correct; but 
the gentleman did not understand my father. 

" At the period of this expedition he was hopeless of its success, and in the deepest 
despondency at the prospect of Irish affiiin. Such was the wretched indiscretion of the 
government, that before his departure he read himself in the Bien Inform^ (a Paris news* 
paper) a detailed account of the whole ajmament, where his own name was mentioned 
in full letters, with the circumstance of his being embarked on board the Hoche. There 
was, therefore, no hope of secresy. He had all sdong deprecated the idea of these at. 
tempts on a small scale ; but he had also declared repeatedly, that if the government 
sent only a corporal's guard, he felt it his duty to go along with them. He saw no chance 
of Kilmaine's large expedition being ready in any space of time, and therefore deter- 
mined to accompany Hardy. His resolution was, however, deliberately and inflexibly 
taken, in case he fell into the hands of the enemy, never to suffer the indignity of a pub- 
lic execution. He did not consider this as suicide — ^an act which in usual cases he re^ 


This was the Irish Rebellion of 1 798 : the barbarous and bloody con- 
summation—may history never have to chronicle another such !— of ages of 
oppression and misrule. We abstain from any attempt to count the cost 
of it. The cost cannot be counted, by any rule of moral or political arith- 
metic yet known : nay, it is even yet unliquidated. We have not by any 
means seen the end of the Irish Rebellion, with all our Indemnity and Am- 
nesty Acts. It, and the causes which produced it, yet live, in the shape 
of that " chief difficulty " which remains to this hour the problem and per- 
plexity of statesmanship— obstinately insolvable by aught but justice. 

We talk, in smooth, easy phrase, of the " suppression" of the Rebellion of 
1798. The Rebellion of 1798 is not suppressed. There are only two ways 
of suppressing such a rebellion as that — justice, and extermination. The one 
has hitherto been found a moral, the other will stand to the end of time a 
physical impossibility. The generation of 1798 has passed away, and 
another come : but the insurrectionary Union of Irishmen is yet present ; for 
the thing Irishmen united for — an " equal, full, and adequate representa- 
tion of all the people of Ireland," with the good government to which re- 
presentation is a means — is yet future. It may " please the English 
people in general to forget all the facts in Irish mstory," but the historic 
facts have moral and poHtlcal consequences which it will be well for the 
English people in general to recollect. The true Indemnity and Amnesty 
Acts for Irish rebellion are yet to come. 

garded as a weakness, or frenzy, — ^but merely as choosing the mode of his death ; — ^and, 
indeed, his constitutional and nervous sensitiveness at the slightest idea of personal 
indignity would have sufficed to determine him never to bear the touch of an execu- 
tioner. It was at dinner, in our own house and in my mother's presence, a little before 
leaving Paris, that the gentleman above-mentioned proposed that the Irish should leave 
to the government all the shame and odium of their execution. The idea struck him 
. as ludicrous, and he applauded it highly : * My dear friend,' he said, < say nothing 
more ; you never spoke better in your life.' And after the gentleman's departure, he 
laughed very heartly at his idea of shaming the Irish government by allowing himself 
to be hanged ; adding, that he did not at all understand people mooting the point whe- 
ther they should or should not choose their own deaths, or consulting on such an oc- 
casion. That he would never advise others ; but, < please God, they should never have 
his poor bones to pick.' " 



No. I. 

Of tkd atrocities habitually perpetrated by the Yeomanry Corps in 1798— with full 
prsfions license and subsequent impunity — the following may serve as a specimen : — 


Proceedings of a General Court-Martial %eld in the Barracks of Dublin, on Satur- 
dayy October 13th, 1798, by order of Lieut.-Gen. Ceaio. 

Colonel Earl of Enniskillbn, President. 

Major Brown, R.I.D. t Captain Irwin, B.I.D. 

Captain Onob, R.I.D. I Captain Carter, R.I.D. 

Captain Lbsub, Fermanagh. | Lieutenant Summbbs, 68th. 

JosspH Atkinson, Esq., D.J. Advocate. 

The Court being met and duly sworn, proceeded to the trial of Hugh Wollaghan, of 
Middleton, in the county of Wicklow, yeoman, charged with having on the first of 
October instant* come to the house of Thomas Dogherty, and did then and there shoot 
and kill the said Thomas Dogherty, to which he was encouraged by Charles Fpx and 
James Fox, of the aforesaid county, Teomen ; and the said James Fox is likewise charged 
with having 'discharged a loaded gun at Margaret Barry, of Delgany, on the first of 
-October instant. The prisoner being duly arraigned, pleaded Not Guilty. 

Mabt Doghertt, of Delgany, in the county of Wicklow, fl^rom. 

Q. : Do you know the prisoner at the bar ? — ^A. : I do. The witness deposed that 
on Monday week the prisoner, Hugh Wollaghan, came into her house at Delgany, and • 
demanded if there were any bloody rebels there ; that on deponent's answering there was 
not, only a sick boy, the prisoner Wollaghan asked the boy if he was Dogherty's eldest son, 
upon which the boy stood up and told him he was. Wollaghan then said, " Well, you 
dog, if you are, you die here ;" that the boy replied, " I hope not ; if you have anything 
against me, bring me to Mr. Latouche, and give me a fair trial, and if you get anything 
against me, give ^e the severity of the law ;" that Wollaghan replied, *<Ko, you dog, I 
don't care for Latouche, you are to die here ;*' upon which the deponent said to Wolla- 
gbaa (he then having the gun cocked in-his hand), ** For the love of God, spare my child's 

mef and take mine ;'* that Wollaghan replied, " No, you bloody w ; if I had 

your husband here, I would give him the same death." He then snapped the 
gun, but it did not go off; he snapped it a second time, but it did not go off; 
upon which a man of the name of Charles Fox, but not either of the prisoners at 
the bar, came in and said, ** Damn your gun, there's no good in it ;" and that the said 
Fox at the same time said to Wollaghan that that man (pointing to deponent's son) 
must be shot ; that deponent then got hold of Wollaghan's gun and endeavoured to 
turn it from her son, upon which the gun went off, grazed her son's body, and shot him 
in the arm; the boy staggered — leaned on a form — turned up his eyes, and said, " Mo- 
ther, pray for me." That on Wollaghan's firing the gun, he went out at the door, and in 

* A period subsequent to the cessation of hostilities. 


a short time returned in again, and said, « Is not the dog dead yet ?" The deponent re- 
plied, " Oh ! yes, sir ; he is dead enough.*' Upon which WoUaghan replied (firing the gun 
at him again), " For fear he is not, let him take this." Deponent was at that instant 
holding up her son's head, when he fell, and died. 

Q. : Who was in the house at this time ? — A. : Esther Dogherty, sister to the de- 
ceased, was in the house when the first shot was fired, and then went away ; another 
sister, Mary Dogherty, was in the house when WoUaghan first came in, but left it before 
the gun was fired by him. The prisoner, James Fox the elder, was outside the door with 
a gun, but took no act or part, as far as I could see, in the business ; the prisoner 
James Fox I have nothing to allege against. 

CB086-BXAMINBD. — ^Prisoner (to witness): Were not your husband and other son 
concerned in the rebellion ? — ^A. : I can't telL 

Q. : Don't you belieye your son was killed at Dunboyne, fighting the king'sforoes ? — 
A. : He was not ; he is now alive and working at his trade. 

Q. : Don't you believe your deceased son was a rebel, and engaged in the battle 
of Dunboyne against the king's forces ? — ^A. : I do not ; he has been accused of it. 

Q. : Did you ever hear that deceased was taken prisoner as a rebel ? — A. : He was 
taken as a rebel, as I suppose, and was afterward put on board a ship lying in the river, 
where he was sick, and was got off by Lord Comwattis's orders, through Mrs. Latouche, 
and put into the navy hospital. 

Q: Do you recollect seeing this paper before (showing the witness a manuscript 
song) ? — A. : I never did, to the best of my luiowledge. 

Q. : Where is your husband, and how long has he been from home ? — A. : He is now 
in Dublin, working at his trade of brogue making ; but he was reaping at home at 
Delgany a month before this. 

Q. : When did you last see your son whom you now say is living? — ^A. : Three 
months ago, at Newtown-park, working at his trade of brogue making. 

Q. : Did you ever hear of any quarrel or dispute between your son and the prisoner 
WoUaghan ? — A. : I never did. 

EsTHBR DooHBBTT, sister to the deceased, being examined as to the same points as 
her mother, gave similar evidence. 

MA.ROARBT Babrt being called upon and duly^ sworn, informed the^ court that she 
had nothing to say against James Fox, or any of the prisoners at the bar. 

The prosecution being closed, and the prisoner, Hugh WoUaghan, being caUed to 
his defence, caUed On Richabd Byrnb, a private in the -WaUace Fcncibles, who was 
duly sworn. 

Prisoner (to Byrne) : Did you know the deceased, Thomas Dogherty, his father, and 
brother? — A.: I did. 

Q. : Have you any and what reason to think they were rebels, and did you see any of 
them exercise as such ? — A. : Yes, I have seen them exercise with poles or pikes at Mr. 
Johnson's fields at KiUencarrig, four mUes beyond Bray, in the beginning of last spring. 

Q. : Did any, and which of them, apply to you to join them as rebels ? — A. : Thomas 
Dogherty, the man that is dead, asked me why I was not in among the body ? " What 
body ?" said I ; upon which he said, " I'll leave you as you are." 

Q. : Where did you find this paper ? — ^A. : This paper came out of the pocket of 
Dogherty's mother in the churchyard at Delgany, the day on which the coroner's 
inquest sat on the body of her deceased son. I picked it up, conceiving it to be a bank- 
note ; but finding there was no stamp on it, I showed it to a friend, as I can't read 
myself, and he told me it was a dtimned good thing ; and the first time I saw Captain Gore 
who commands the Newtown Mount-Kennedy Yeomanry, I gave it to him. 

Q. : When did you give it to him ? — ^A. : That day. 

Q. : Where do you live ? — A. : This month past at the rendezvous in Kevin-street 
where I have been since I enlisted, except the time I went to Delgany. 

Q. : Where did you Uve before ? — A. : At KiUencurrig, as a servant to a widow ; and 
I was there near ten months. 

Q. ; Hqw far is KiUencarrig from Delgany ? — A. : About half a mile. 


CAftAtu GbRB was calM and sworn, who deposed that he got the paper aUuded to 
from the witness Byrne. 

Edward Wbymam, a private of the Newtown Mount-Kennedy Yeomanry, was sworn. 

Prisoner (to Weyman) : Did you know the Doghertys, and were any, and which of 
them, reputed rebels f — ^A. : I did, and the three were reputed as such. 

Q. : Did the mother of deceased give you any furniture to keep, and what expressions 
did she make use of on that occasion? — ^A. : She did ; she sent her daughter to me just 
after the Ancient Britons had been at Delgany, and requested that she might leave some 
leather and other articles in a sack at my house, which I consented to, and she sent them 
accordingly, and I kept them a month after the action at Mount-Kennedy. She offered 
them to me for sale ; and when I pointed out the mischief that arose from the rebellion, 
tihe, with her hands lifted up, cursed the authors of it, and said that it brought ruin on . 
herself and family, and that she had not seen her husband and sons for some time back. ' 
This conversation took place about the beginning of June. 

The prisoner requested the indulgence of the court-martial until Monday to proceed 
with his defence, and the Court accordingly adjourned. 

Monday, October 15th. 
Hie court met pursuant to adjournments 

Thoicas Vicars, Esq., sworn. — ^Prisoner : Do you know, and by what means Thomas 
Pogherty was liberated and returned to the county of Wicklow, and for what was he 
confined ? — A. : I understood that he had been taken in arms against the king's forces in 
the county of Westmeath, was tried by a court-martial of the Carlow Militia, and was 
sent to one of the guard-ships in the river Liffy to be transported ; but, by the intervention 
of Mrs. Latouche to Mrs. Cooke and General Cradock, was liberated. 

Q. : Do you know if Dogherty had any protection, and from whom ? — A. ;, I don't 
know that he had, nor did I ever hear of his having one. 

Q. : Do you know if he took the oath of allegiance after he was liberated ?— A.: I 
don't know that he ever did. 

Court : Do you know if he had been guilty of any act of rebellion since his^release ?-~ 
A. : I don't know of any. 

Isaac Sutton, of Rathdrum, county of Wicklow, sworn. 

Prisoner : Did you know the late Thomas Dogherty ? — ^A. : I did. I was taken 
prisoner by the rebels near Roundwood, in the county of Wicklow, about the month of 
May last, and he was one of the guard over me ; for I heard his name called Thomaa 
Dogherty, and he answered to the name, and that he was a brogue-mkker at Delgany. 

Q.: Did you know Dogherty before you were taken prisoner, or did you see him 
since you got away from the rebels ? — A. : No. 

Q. : How do you know that it is the same Thomas Dogherty that was shot 7 — ^A. : It 
struck me that it was the same when I heard of his death, but I don't know that it is 
the same. 

George Kbnnedt, corporal of the! Mount-Kennedy Yeomen, sworn. 

Prisoner: Do you know Captain Armstrong; in what district did he command; 
and do you know of any general orders, and when were they given ? — A. : I do know 
Captain Armstrong, of the King's County Militia, who commanded at Mount-Kennedy be- 
fore and after Dogherty was shot. In consequence of the enormities and murders com- 
mitted in that neighbourhood by day and night, the general orders given by him were, 
that any body of yeomanry going out, he would wish them not less than nine or ten for 
their own safety ; and if they should meet with any rebels whom they knew, or suspected 
to be such, that they need not be at the trouble of bringing them in, but to shoot them 
on the spot. This order was before Dogherty was killed. The witness communicated 
this to the corps, and is very certain in the hearing of the prisoner WoUaghan. 

Q. : Do you know of any party of your corps being ordered out on the Ist of October- 


last for the purpose yon mention, and by whose orders did they go out on that day ?-— A : 
I don't recollect anything about it, as I was confined to my bed on that day. 

Q. : Do you know me ; what i^ my general character as to sobriety and reg^ularity in 
the corps ? — A. : I h»ve known you upwards of nine months in the corps, aad I have 
known you during that time to be a sober, fidthful, and loyal yeoman, and not degrading 
the vest of the corps ; one of the best in it. 

Q. : Was it not the practice of the corps to go out on scouring parties, without 
orders, to protect their own property and that of their neighbours?— *A.: I always 
looked upon it as an order and practice of the corps, particularly after what Captain 
Armstrong had mentioned. 

Q. : Would you yourself, from his character and the ofders you received, hare thought 
yourself justified to shoot him ? — ^A. : Yes ; I certainly would. 

. Q. : In any parties you have been with the prisoner, did you ever see him commit any 
act of cruelty, or show any inclination to it?—- A : No ; I never saw him do aaytbing but 
what wsfi his duty. 

John Fox, of Newtown Mount-Kennedy Ck>rp8, sworn. 

(N.B. — This evidence corroborated that of Kelly's, the questions being the same.) 

Seijeant Natbaniel Hates, of the Newtown Mount-Kennedy Yeomen, sworn. 

Deposed that he knew the prisoner for four months in the corps, and that he always 
behaved as a sober, loyal, brave man, and good subject. 

Prisoner : Do you know gf any g;ener8l orders issued to the corps, and by whom ? 
. — A. : I do ; Captain' Armstrong, of the King's County Militia, said, in my hearing, that 
he would shoot or hang any rebels whom h$ »uspecte4» and told the people under his 
command to do the same. This order was issued before Thomas Dogherty's death, and I 
should consider myself authorised to do so under that order. 

lieutenant William Tomunsov, of-the RathdnuE Yeomen CaviUiy, sworn. 

Prisoner : What were the otders issued * to your corps, iiild those in your vicinity, 
respecting the rebels? — A : It was. generally understood that orders were given to the 
corps not to bring in prisoners, but to shoot any that were known to be rebels. 

Q.: Do you recollect when these orders were understood to have come out, and by 
whom they were issued ?-^. : I do not know who they came from, but they came out 
after the attack at Arklow. 

Lieutenant Gbobob Andbriv, of the Newtown Mount-Kenne<i^ Yeomen, sworn. 

And deposed that he has known the prisoner particularly upwards ef ten years; that 
that he is a good, loyal subject, and ready at ^ hours to do his duty; and that he never 
knew hip cruel ; on the contrary, never saw him act inhumanly. That since the death 
of Dogherty he attended parade until apprehended for this charge* 

Captain Abcher, of the same corps, swora* 

Deposed' he knew the prisoner since he was a child, and that' he worked for him 
in his profession, a mason, aiwl always found him a sober and difigent man, and, since 
his being a yeoman, ready to obey his officers,. and looked on him to be an iMsquisition 
to Ms corps. 

Lieutenant Rxgbabd Gobe, same corps, sworn. 

Who deposed that he has known the prisoner since the attack i^t Newtown ; he was 
always obedient to his officers, and rather leaned to the side of mercy than not ; part of 
the corps marched against the rebels, and the prisoner, particularly, showed his prompti« 
tude, zeal, and courage on that occasion. 


Captain Gorb, sworn. 

Deposed that he has known the prisoner about four months, and that he was one of 
attendants on his duty as a yeoman, and that he knew him to be a 2oyo/ and braye soldier, 
and never knew him to be guilty of any act of inhumanity; and that it was the practice 
of the corps to scour the country without an officer ; and verily believes they understood 
it was their duty to shoot any rebelt they met with, or suspected to be such ; and de- 
ponent has heard that other corps had similar directions in other districts. 

Defence closed, and the prisoner's counsel read an addresa to the Court for the 

The prisoner was acquitted! 

« JhMin Castle, l^th October, 1798. 

*' Having laid before the Lord Lieutenant the proeeedings of a general court- 
martial, held by your orders in Dublin barracks, on Saturday, the 13th instant, of which 
Colonel the Earl of Enniskillen is president, I am directed to acquaint you that his Ex- 
cellency entirely disapproves of the sentence of the above court-martial acquitting Hugh 
WoUaghan of a cruel and deliberate murder, of which, by the clearest evidence, he ap- 
pears to have been guilty. 

<' Lord Cornwallis orders the court-martial to be immediately dissolved, and directs 
that Hugh WoUaghan shall be dismissed from the corps of yeomanry in which he served ; 
and that he shall not be received into any other corps of yeomanry in this kingdom. His 
Excellency further desires that the above may be read to the president and members of 
the court-marttsl in open eourt. 

'* i have the honour to be, ■ 


** Your most obedient humble servant, 

« H. TAYLOR, Sec. 
<< To Uenteaant-General Graig^ &c. 

<*P. S. — I am Also directed to desire that' a new court-martial may be immediately 
convened for the trial of such prisoners as may be brought before them — and that Hon* 
of the officers who sat upon Hugh WoUaghan be admitted as members." 

No. n. 


The Report of the Secret Committee of 1798 gives the following " Retom of Amu 
seized and surrendered in the several districts :"— 
48)^109 guns» 
1,756 bayonets, 
4,463 pistols, 
4,183 swoffds, 

92 pieces of ordnance, 
70,630 pikes. 
When Dr. Macneven was asked, by a member of the Committee, to wh»e number he 
thought the United Irishmen amounted all over the kingdom,